Drone program on the rise for Colorado Northwestern Community College | CraigDailyPress.com

Drone program on the rise for Colorado Northwestern Community College

Excitement is rising at Colorado Northwestern Community College.

CNCC has plans to partner with Metro State University to expand its aviation program to include drones — Unmanned Aerial Systems and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in late 2018 or early 2019.

"CNCC is very excited about this opportunity. We have a phenomenal aviation program that we house on the Rangely campus, and so this will be an opportunity for us to build that program out even further," said Janell Oberlander, vice president of the Craig campus and student affairs.

From tiny remote-controlled toys to military grade fixed-wing aircraft, unmanned aircraft are aircraft operated without the possibility of direct human intervention. Also called drones, these aircraft may have passengers but do not have a human pilot onboard.

They can be flown for fun, military application and increasingly, are being used for commercial application.

"It's advanced technology," said County Commissioner Ray Beck. "UAV can be used for firefighting, law enforcement, infrastructure and habitat identification."

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Beck is the chair of the Colorado Aeronautical Board, seven people appointed by the governor to advise the state’s Division of Aeronautics.

"We have people in our own community using it as a business,” Beck said. “The technology is growing by leaps and bounds, and there are a number of opportunities to take advantage of it locally as well as nationally."

The program being developed at CNCC is a "two plus two program" allowing students to spend their first two years of study at CNCC prior to seamlessly transferring to program partner Metro State in Denver, Oberlander said.

To help with the development of the program the college has applied for a $250,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

Jeff Grubbs, associate vice president of instruction at the Craig campus, reported to the college board at their Wednesday meeting this week that if the college is successful in securing one of these highly sought after grants, that drone grant would positively impact the entire college, not just the Rangely campus.

More than $100 billion could be spent on both military and civilian drones between 2016 and 2020, according to a report by Goldman Sachs.

All those drones will need drone pilots.

"We feel that it is absolutely going to help our workforce and workforce development as well," Oberlander said.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.

5 fast facts about drones

1 — Hobby drone pilots do not need FAA permission, but registration and/or notification may be required.
An unmanned aircraft must be registered if it weighs more than 0.55 pounds. FAA guidance also says that UAS should always be flown a safe distance from populated areas and other aircraft. Visit the “Fly for Fun” webpage for safety rules and guidelines that apply to recreational UAS operations. If the aircraft is flown within five miles of an airport, the operator of the aircraft must provide the airport operator and any airport air traffic control tower with prior notice of the operation. Also, airspace regulations may be applicable to the area you are operating in, which may require approval from the FAA to operate in those areas. The B4UFLY app can help determine airspace restrictions.

2 — Commercial applications for drones is growing creating new jobs
Predictions are estimating that over $100 billion could be spent on both military and civilian drones between 2016 and 2020. The commercial segment is expected to grow the fastest with construction accounting for $11.2 billion in drone technology, agriculture accounting for an estimated $5.9 billion growth, insurance expected to invest $1.4 billion and infrastructure inspection expected to grown by $1.1 billion. All those drones will need drone pilots.

3 — Flying drones professionally requires licensing

All operations under the Part 107 rule — that allows for routine civil operation of small UAS — requires UAS operators to have a remote pilot certificate, which he or she can obtain by taking an online training course. Existing pilots have some testing options, but all members of the public must take and pass the initial aeronautical knowledge test to obtain a remote pilot certificate.

4 — If you’re hunting, leave the drone at home
Colorado Parks and Wildlife Law Enforcement and Public Safety Assistant Director Heather Dugan says CPW reminds hunters that the use of a drone for hunting is a violation of CPW Commission Regulations and also a violation of the Federal Airborne Hunting Act. It is not legal to take off or land a drone in any of CPW’s 350 state wildlife areas. Drone use in state parks is limited to those parks with a designated area for model aircraft use. Even then, drone operators should be aware that it is illegal to harass — change the behavior — of wildlife. Penalties for violating drone laws can range from $70 to as steep as $125,000. Additionally, if a drone operator is found to be in violation, their drones or related equipment could be subject to seizure.

5 — Think before you launch, know before you fly
Think Before You Launch and Know Before You Fly are awareness campaigns. Think Before You Launch was founded by an alliance of both UAS and Aviation stakeholders interested in improving aviation safety while educating users about the safe and responsible operation and integration of unmanned aircraft systems. To learn more visit ThinkBeforeYouLaunch.com. Know Before You Fly is an educational campaign that provides prospective unmanned aircraft users with the information and guidance they need to fly safely and responsibly. To learn more visit: KnowBeforeYouFly.org.

Sources: Drones Reporting for Work by Goldman Sachs, Colorado Division of Aeronautics and Colorado Parks and Wildlife