Virginia College Launches Drone Program

PVCCA Virginia-based community college is hopping on the drone-training bandwagon to help public-safety agencies embrace technology.

Piedmont Virginia Community College in Charlottesville received a Blanket Certificate of Waiver/Authorization this past week from the FAA to “conduct research and development of aircraft and sensors, including unmanned aerial vehicles, for public safety” agencies.

The COA allows the college to test UAV aircraft and specifically test sensors used by public-safety agencies in emergency-scenario conditions.

“The agencies can select the scenarios that are most appropriate for the type of emergencies they will encounter, which makes the training more meaningful,” Dean of Workforce Services Valerie Palamountain said.

“In addition, data collected during the scenarios will be used to improve the deployment of sUAS technology in public safety,” she added.

The school will launch a new curriculum in May that will include UAV pilot training, technical training with a focus on drone in police, fire and first-responder agencies.

“The value of [drone use] in public safety is phenomenal,” Charles Werner, retired fire chief of the City of Charlottesville and consultant to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management said. Werner is a senior adviser for the program.  “PVCC’s innovative and impressive program will undoubtedly enable public safety to implement sUAS operations safely and effectively,” he added.

Lead instructor Darren Goodbar created the 40-hour program and led the COA process.

Goodbar, who is also Director of Aerial Services at Draper Aden Associates, said the program was the first, comprehensive curriculum for incident response in the U.S.

PVCC joins a growing number of colleges and universities launching new drone programs.

In December, Green River College in Auburn, Wash. announced the launch of a drone associates degree program.

A Bachelor of Science program in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) was first offered at Kansas State University—Salina, in 2008, funded as part of a relief package for future disaster prevention. A UAS major was created at the University of North Dakota in 2009, and similar programs have since spread from the Midwest to across America, and the world.

Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida developed a program in 2011, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks started offering a minor in UAS in the fall of 2014.

Last year, the University of Louisiana at Monroe became one of the first institutions to offer a drone concentration within its aviation department.

via DroneLife


Jason Reagan is a futurist, tech writer, communications specialist and optimist. Jason blogs for DroneLife (@DroneLife) and SiliconHollar.

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