Drones: Eyes in the Sky - Training Programs

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They're quietly taking the aviation world by storm and the advancements show no sign of stopping.
Unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones, have been a staple in the military or years, but now, the industry is ready to take flight in the U.S.

With one of only a handful of UAV training programs in the country, and the only one in the state, Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City is hoping to be at the forefront of the new technology.
"We've actually been looking at it for about five years and so for the first couple of years, we evaluated it, we did a few things and figured out if it was the right place to be," said Aaron Cook, Director of Aviation at NMC.

Fast-forward three more years and the program is growing exponentially. It started with only ten students and is now hovering near 30. The college expects between 40 and 50 students, next year.
As the Manager of the Unmanned Aerial Systems Program at NMC, Tony Sauerbrey oversees the school's three UAV training classes.
"It's largely hands-on and lecture classes where students actually get to get out in the field, learn how to fly these vehicles, starting from operating the remote control airplanes, to the more advanced unmanned aerial systems," he said.





Systems where all you have to do is plug a flight path into a computer and the UAV will follow. It's technology that can cost up to $100,000.
"It's an investment in the future," said Cook. "If you're not changing, you're falling behind."

The school also has smaller drones, including one called the 'Dragun-Fly'. It costs between $30-40,000 and with its small size, remote control and camera attached, it's a popular drone for law enforcement teams.

It's a fast-growing, brand new industry and pays up $70,000 to start.
"It's the future of aviation. The fact that it's so prevalent in the industry, it's a really good career path to follow," said Andrew Perkins, a student in the UAS program.


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