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Brandon University launches new drone training

New course gives students opportunity to become certified drone pilots

Brandon University will be one of the first post-secondary institutions in Canada to offer an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) pilot ground school when it introduces a course credit for taking the program this fall.

Pilot training schools now offer similar training but not university course credits.

The new course will offer students everything they need to know to safely and legally fly these increasingly popular airborne vehicles, says Matthew Johnson, president of M3 Aerial Productions who will be teaching the BU course.

Drones are great tools when operated safely and legally but as use of them grows so do the risks associated with mishandling, Johnson says.

“There’s a lot of people using them who really know nothing about what the risks are,” he said. “Most who buy a drone and take it out of the box aren’t thinking about that.”

Users are increasingly recognizing how education is necessary, he added.

“It’s like driving a car. Driver’s Ed is extremely valuable to public safety as a whole in the same way as UAV ground school,” he said.

This course will teach students about all safety considerations, applications for drones and how they work, plus update them on all Transport Canada regulations.

Existing rules currently exempt those who fly drones recreationally, but proposed new rules will require everyone at the controls of a drone to have completed a ground school course like the one being offered at BU.

This course will give students opportunity to become certified drone pilots, and able to fly drones commercially potentially launching a career, Johnson said.

“It’s a huge opportunity to get in, in the early stages,” he said. “There’s already a shortage of qualified drone pilots, and now with just one course you can tap into a whole new industry.”

Drones are now used extensively in academic disciplines including archeology, environmental science, biology, geography, and geology, plus numerous applied fields such as architecture, civil engineering, surveying, and others.

Agricultural use for drones is huge and growing. About 85 per cent of those who’ve taken courses through M3 Aerial Productions have an agricultural background, said Johnson. He predicts it won’t be long before every farmer is using a drone to collect field information.

“It’s a very valuable tool and it makes sense to have one,” he said. “They provide so much more valuable info about your fields at the touch of a button. And the technology is getting better and better and the price is coming down.”

Demand for the training is expected to be intense and to meet that demand the course will be fully available online.

The first portion is self-directed and must be completed by Nov. 17. The second portion includes three Saturday sessions (Nov. 18, 25, and Dec. 2) offered either in class or through online videoconferencing. Fees will be $600 and includes the tuition, admissions fee plus a course fee of $60 for the manual and textbook.

The course cost is $600, and includes BU tuition, the university admissions fee, and a course fee of $60 for the manual and textbook. There is no prerequisite, and no need to already own a drone, as the course is completely ground based with no actual flying.

About the author

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Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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