MDC Aviation School to Launch Drone-Related Initiatives

On the horizon for Miami Dade College’s EIG-Watson Aviation School is a set of credit and non-credit courses on the subject of drones and their proper operation.

Aviation School Director Thomas Jargiello and Aviation Program Manager Andres de Avila say there is a high chance of students actually being able to fly the drones.

“I think the technology and the utilization of drones is growing literally every day,” Jargiello said. “There’s just a massive number of uses of drones that are being considered and being put into place.”

Keeping up with the times, the College’s Aviation School at MDC’s Homestead Campus aims to be at the helm of technological developments by making drone education available to the public.

“What we do at the school is that not only do we run the school and the degrees, we also look at the technology in the future,” Jargiello said.

At the moment, the drone program plans are just thatplans.

Jargiello explained that the principal setback is securing a required authorization from the Federal Aviation Authorization (FAA) to fly drones on a non-hobby basis. Specifically, the school must earn a Section 333 exemption. According to the FAA website, exemption are given on a case-by-case basis in anticipation of the Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Rule which will be the conduit for future authorizations of UAS operations.

Already, the College has been able to secure a substantial amount of support equipment and simulators for the drone courses through federal educational equipment grants.

Once underway, the drone program courses will address topics including drone technology, regulation, commercial utilization through classroom lectures, videos and use of a training drone with camera capabilities.

The non-credit courses are slated to begin this summer through a six-week session. Eighteen college credits spread across six courses are also in the works for future semesters, with no special requirements set for students to register.

The plans for the emerging drone program were conceived about a year ago, when Jargiello and his staff looked into similar programs and courses being offered in other parts of the country.

A September 2014 Slate.com article originally published in Business Insider reports that drones already form a $13.1 billion global industry and that the first bachelor’s program in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) was offered by the University of North Dakota in 2009. Thirty universities currently offer UAS programs, with community colleges offering two-year programs.

The plans are indirectly supported by Miami-Dade County District 11 Commissioner Juan C. Zapata, who was recently part of a unanimous vote to designate the Miami Executive Airport (previously known as the Kendall-Tamiami Airport) as a “West End Innovation District,” according to the Miami Herald. Zapata also mentioned the emerging drone program at MDC.

“ [Zapata’s] work in that area may eventually be very supportive of [the program],” Jargiello said. “His efforts are gonna clearly help us and I think we’re encouraged with his efforts.”

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