Westlake launches drone technology class
Westlake High School’s Technology & Engineering Department launched a new drone technology class this fall to provide students instruction on flying unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).
“Unmanned Aircraft Systems – Drone Technology” is taught by Pilot in Command (PIC) Scott Kutz, who earned his Remote Pilot (Part 107) license over the summer. Kutz also has a Private Pilot Ground School certificate. Earning a basic drone pilot certificate requires 50 hours of training.
Fifteen WHS students are enrolled in the first 18-week class, which is formatted to mirror the professional manned aircraft training. Students are engaged in “ground school” activities for the first three days of the week, then participate in “flight school” operations for the remainder of the week.
The course, offered to grades 10-12, is an overview of UAS. Topics include the history, development and evolution of unmanned aircraft; current and forecast trends and issues; capabilities and performance of unmanned aircraft; UAS applications; regulations governing UAS; UAS flight operations; and opportunities and career paths in UAS. Upon completion of the course, students can apply to take the Part 107 test to earn their remote pilot license through an official FAA-approved testing site – including Burke Lakefront Airport and Lorain County Regional Airport.
Kutz said the class is almost two years in the making, starting back in March 2017 when the Avon Lake-based company rp+m sponsored a contest for engineering students. Kutz’s advanced engineering and design class had to redesign the blade guards and landing gear for a Blue Jay Force 1 drone. After improving the designs and rendering them, students printed 3D parts and attached them to the drone for testing and presented their research and solutions to a panel of rp+m design and manufacturing professionals.
“The contest proved to be very successful and generated a lot of student interest,” Kutz aid. “As a result, we implemented another drone lesson last year so they could learn more about the capabilities of drones in general, including programming drones for autonomous flight.”
WHS’ Technology & Engineering Department polled a same of students to gauge their interest in a course dedicated to case aviation technology, and consulted with Kent State University’s College of Aeronautics & Engineering on their growing flight technology program. The rest, as they say, is history.
UAS, or drones, are increasingly evolving in the aviation industry, and potential career pathways are opening up for individuals who are skilled in drone technology. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration predicts there could be 30,000 drones in the nation’s skies by 2020.
The estimated number of jobs the drone industry is expected to create by the end of 2018 is 70,000, according to the FAA. The average annual salary of a drone pilot is estimated at $104,000.
Examples of commercial drone applications include agriculture, law enforcement, freight transport, disaster management, weather monitoring, mass media, wildfire mapping and telecommunications.