One of the nation’s oldest university aviation programs is now the youngest drone flight school. Auburn University announced recently that it had received the FAA’s first approval to operate a drone flight school.
A handful of universities have extensive drone programs, but since the student has to pay to attend, the FAA views any drone flights at those schools as a commercial operation. Knowing this, Auburn took the path of offering an FAA-approved commercial drone school without a degree option.
Under the program approval anyone will be able to come and learn how to fly a drone, according to program director Bill Hutto. “We will have the ability to offer training courses at different locations here and around the state for Auburn students, faculty, members of other public agencies, and the general public,” he said.
The program is approved under the FAA’s 333 process, which is a more streamlined path to flying than a more traditional COA process. According to Hutto, more than 200 commercial operations have been approved thus far.
The basic course will consist of classroom and flying practice in both fixed-wing and quadcopter versions. There will also be a written exam and a practical test, and those students without a pilot certificate will take an additional day of aviation ground school for things such as airspace, weather, and regulations, Hutto said. Future specialty courses in fixed-wing precision agriculture and other subjects are anticipated.
Auburn hopes to run its first class sometime this summer.