Drone classes for credits at ACC in spring

News Photo by Jordan Spence Drone classes will be offered for credit at Alpena Community College beginning with the spring semester.

ALPENA — When spring semester starts for Alpena Community College new courses can be taken for credit.

“This is the cumulation of the whole project. It’s starting on Jan. 19 and that is the pilot exam prep course,” trade adjustment grant Director Dawn Stone said.

If people want to fly a drone for commercial purposes they must be licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration, Stone said. The first class taught at the college prepares students to take the FAA exam to be a certified unmanned aircraft systems pilot.

There will be three one-credit courses. These courses include pilot exam prep, operations, and payloads and processing. The three classes together can be used as an elective, she said.

Stone said the exam is quite intense and there are components to it most won’t find intuitive without preparation.

“They run right after the other. They’re stand-alone courses, but they’re just one credit class. If they take all three they get the three credit elective,” she said. “The second class is safety and operations. That one will be all hands-on. We’ll do some work with simulators.”

The college first tested the program on ACC instructors. Then it was offered as a non-credit course.

The third course, payloads and processing, is a little less hands-on she said.

“Mostly it has to do with the data collected from the drone. For example, you fly a mission over the salt pile in Alpena and they took pictures of the salt pile. What do you do with those pictures? Run through data processing system, turn it into a 3D model to do volume calculations through it, focus a lot on photogrammetry. So that will be a lot of computer work,” Stone said.

These classes are a good way for students to stand out to employers, communications technician Jess Ruppert said.

“It will be a good way for them to put themselves ahead of competition in the search of jobs,” she said.

Stone agreed. She said it will give students an industry recognized credential.

“(It) is really important for the business world. Everyone talks about the skills gaps. This is an industry they can tag onto any field. So it has a lot of validity to the business world,” Stone said.

ACC is still offering work-first development classes with drones that aren’t for credit.

“The technology is so new those out in the field (graduates) are the drone person at work. (Instructor Brian Dawson) is so accessible they’ll call them and tell them they’re the drone person now and he’s more than happy to implement.”

Stone said the college is excited to now offer these courses for credit.

“Students who didn’t have the financial ability to take the classes but are eligible for student aid can take them. They can work with faculty and advisers to help fit them into their programs,” Stone said.

The classes will take place in the morning on Fridays. The first course begins Jan. 19. The last day of registration for spring semester at ACC is Jan. 8.

Anyone can take the course but they need to apply and register as an ACC student.

Jordan Spence can be reached via email at jspence@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5687.