Class aims to help students get drone certified

ALPENA — Just because someone is a teacher doesn’t mean they’re done taking tests.

Alpena Community College utility technology instructor Roy Smith is one of three ACC instructors to pass the drone pilot certification test in early January.

“Being a utility tech instructor, I know drones will be used as a tool,” Smith said. “I wanted to pass it first before my students try.”

This semester the college will offer a free, non-credit class to prepare students to take the drone certification test.

The new program is funded through a Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant the college received two years ago, grant administrator Dawn Stone said. A drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle often used to take photos or video. To use them for commercial purposes people must have a license.

Smith was one of seven teachers who took the class late last fall semester during a four week period.

“All I did was study, study, study to take the test,” Smith said. “(The test’s) done on computer; you have resource materials you have to use. There is some interpreting navigational charts, data charts for multipliers on the aircraft. It’s very involved.”

The most difficult part about the class, Smith said, was learning it well enough to be proficient.

Smith hopes more students learn about how these drone skill can benefit their careers.

He said he expects drone technology to be used in many various career fields in 10 years.

“These students, they could be on the forefront in bringing the technology to the employer,” Stone said.

ACC instructor Brian Dawson leads the class and is certified himself.

“We did incorporate the hands-on part of it,” Dawson said. “That’s one of the most important of the course.”

Smith attributes his success to Dawson’s instruction.

“He really knows how to use the resources and materials in the course,” Smith said. “If someone thinks they can just get a license without the course … they would have a hard time.”

Stone said right now the only cost to students is for the book and the test fee. She said eventually it will open up to the public, in which there will be a fee associated with the course.

“This is really a starting point with the utilities,” Stone said. “Start with the utilities and expand from there and offer them to the public.”

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