Droning on: Bridgeport students take to the sky

Published Saturday, January 19, 2019
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Taking Flight

TAKING FLIGHT – Bridgeport High School students Michael Gutierrez, Michael Marshall, Jim Coleman, Colt Miles, Aaron Quiroz and Emily Casper fly their drones during class at the practice fields Thursday. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

There’s a buzz in the air outside Bridgeport High School, just look to the skies.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No. It’s the Bridgeport High School drone program.

This semester, Bridgeport High School has started a drone program, equipping students with the tools of flight and an FAA certification.

On Thursday, the class took its fourth flight of the semester, putting drones in the air on the practice fields just outside the high school. They soared, dipped, dove and this time landed without drama.

“There were some mishaps the first time. We’re comfortable flying now,” said Bridgeport junior Colt Miles.

It’s been a learning experience for the students and first-time drone teacher, Ben Stevens.

“They were looking to start a drone program. It’s a great way for kids to actually do something in high school that they can use in a career and make a job out of,” Stevens said.

Stevens said students could use their drone license to find work in real estate, oil pipelines, fire service and other sectors where drone photography is becoming a growing career.

The class starts with a simulation program that familiarizes students with the controls. Once they’ve passed, they get to take the drones into the air.

It’s also a great way to learn outside the classroom, Stevens said.

“We’re flying drones on a football field. It’s fun,” Stevens said. “It’s just about getting experience, how to maneuver it safely and how to fly without crashing.”

After the class, the final test will be passing the FAA’s Part 107 drone pilot license exam, which could set up students for various career choices or one day become a pilot.

“You have to do all the stuff for a pilot test. If you want to go from drone to plane, we just have to take a flight test,” Miles said. “We’re not just learning how to fly drones, we’re learning how to read maps and basic piloting skills.”

Whether they pursue piloting or use it as a hobby, if the students pass the final test, they will be equipped with the ability to pursue careers as a commercial drone pilots, Stevens said.

A career that could start pilots out at a hefty salary, according to Jordan Rising, director of flight and technology at commercial drone specialists Flight Evolved in a 2017 CNBC article on commercial drone piloting.

“Many of the industrial applications of [drones] are being adopted by survey and engineering firms,” Rising said. “Most of these companies are hiring pilots who can likely expect to make between $50,000 and $70,000, depending on their expertise and the equipment they are operating.”

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