CTC offering certification program for drone pilots

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Drone pilots who want to become certified have a chance to undergo a training program that will help them achieve their goal.

Chattahoochee Technical College and CrossFlight Sky Solutions, based in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, have teamed up to offer a Federal Aviation Administration Part 107 Drone Pilot Training and Certification Program Oct. 1-5 from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. and Oct. 6 from 9 a.m. to noon at CTC's North Metro campus at 5198 Ross Road in Acworth. 

The instructor-led course covers everything unmanned aerial vehicle pilots need to learn to pass their FAA Part 107 exam and become an FAA-certified commercial drone pilot, including FAA rules and regulations, airspace classifications, risk-assessment tools, aeronautical decision-making and weather. It also includes an unmanned aircraft systems career path segment as well as hands-on flying instruction. 

"Drones are becoming very popular with businesses and hobbyists," said Michael O'Neal III, business and industry coordinator at CTC. "Today, many of our academic programs such as criminal justice and television production are working to address this need, but we also wanted to offer an alternative solution for those who need to acquire licensure. By implementing this program, it will allow both the community and our academic students to take advantage of a short course in order for them to obtain the required FAA FAR 107 certification."

O'Neal said CrossFlight had conducted courses with other colleges in the Technical College System of Georgia and "reached out to CTC to see if we would like to offer the program in the north metro Atlanta area."

"After speaking with our colleges, we determined CrossFlight was the best option for our college as well as the participants in the class preparing for the licensure," he said. "They spend a great deal of time with the class and format to ensure students are prepared for the test as well as offering the hands-on aspects of the training."

The college offered several non-credit drone and UAV courses "roughly three years ago," before the rules about operating them commercially were clearly defined, O'Neal said.  

"At the time, the FAA had not finalized the requirements for operation, and the rules and regulations were continually changing, thus [making] it more difficult to offer a course with the most accurate information," he said.

The regulations for commercial versus recreational uses of drones was clarified by the agency in August 2016, and one of the rules required drone pilots who fly the UAVs for work or business to pass a certification exam, according to Recode, a technology news website.

"Anyone who desires to use drones for any commercial or business purpose must be certified by the FAA," O'Neal said. "That includes law enforcement, emergency management, photography, real estate, inspections, construction, engineering, forestry, agriculture and any other commercial or business purpose."

Certified pilots can use drones for such jobs as surveillance; aerial videography; aerial views of land, farms, architecture and construction; deliveries; and environmental monitoring and conservation, he added.

CTC's training and certification program can accommodate 24 drone operators, and participants must be at least 16 years old and have a valid driver’s license.

Students do not have to bring a drone — everything necessary for the class, including logs, air maps, drones and batteries, will be provided, according to O'Neal.

The 23-hour course costs $950 per person, and the price does not include the FAA exam.

"The exam is proctored at a testing location by the FAA," O'Neal said. "We recommend a minimum of one week after the class ends before students register for the exam so they can review material and take the practice tests that are offered. We will, however, assist any students who are ready to sign up for the exam."

Those who want to participate must register by Monday by contacting Cynthia Brown at  cynthia.brown@chattahoocheetech.edu or 770-443-7958.