New Unmanned Aerial Systems course helps students earn FAA certification

TROY instructor Al Allenback is teaching a new class, Remote Pilot Familiarization, as part of the new UAS minor.

TROY instructor Al Allenback is teaching a new class, Remote Pilot Familiarization, as part of the new UAS minor.

A new course in drone operation is already paying dividends for Troy University students.

The Unmanned Aerial Systems minor offered by the Geospatial Informatics Department just completed its first-ever on-campus class, and one of its students has earned her FAA Remote Pilot Certification.

The course, Remote Pilot Familiarization, gives students the practical airmanship knowledge to successfully pass the FAA’s Part 107 Remote Pilot examination, as well as practical experience in quadcopter and fixed wing drone operations.

“This allows an individual to act as the Remote Pilot in Command for commercial drone operations,” said Al Allenback, adjunct UAS instructor in the Geospatial Informatics Department.

The class was originally conceived as a weekly three-hour laboratory on the Troy Campus. However, the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to change that.

“I had designed the class to front load the FAA airmanship academics before Spring Break, then conduct practical laboratory and field drone flying afterwards when the weather was more favorable,” Allenback said. “Well, obviously we had to re-think that after the virus hit.”

That didn’t keep computer science senior Riley Bates from pressing on. Armed with her academic instruction up to Spring Break, she took the FAA exam over the break.

“I recently passed the Part 107 remote pilot test, and I got accepted to do research at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in UAV cybersecurity this summer,” she said.  “Remote Pilot Familiarization gave me the knowledge and resources to be able to accomplish these things. This class is by far my favorite and most practical of any college course I have taken.”

Allenback conducted the remaining classes in drone operations, pre-flight and actual flying using remote technology to give the students the best possible virtual experience.

“Drones are in every area of our lives now, such as emergency response, fire suppression, agriculture, construction and surveying, delivery of supplies and goods, and even life-saving at the beach,” Allenback said. “Since unmanned aerial systems are used in almost every activity, every industry or commercial endeavor will need people who not only know how to fly them, but also how to best use them for a community’s or company’s advantage. The UAS Minor can be used with almost any major field of study.”

Bates graduated May 8.

“I’m really proud of Riley and the other students for using their initiative and the university’s technology platforms to get the most out the class, despite the COVID-19 disruption,” Allenback said. “We will use this experience to make the class even better next spring when we have hopefully put the coronavirus behind us. I am also deeply indebted to the TROY faculty who helped and tutored me in how best to present this experience through Microsoft Teams.”

The Geospatial Informatics Department will offer more UAS classes this Fall in Term 1 with UAS 2200 XTIA, “Unmanned Aerial Systems Overview” and UAS 2206 XTIA “Human Factors in UAS Operations & Accidents”. Online registration is now available.