LOOGOOTEE — Loogootee High School launched southern Indiana’s first high school drone program this fall. The first class of students to take flight hopes to finish the year as FAA-certified commercial drone pilots ready to enter the workforce. Future pilots may go straight into the industry right out of high school potentially taking aerial surveys of land, aiding farmers, assisting police and rescue services and possibly even landing jobs with e-commerce giants like Amazon or eBay.
The students have started the year learning about the safety and maintenance of drones while getting several hours of practice on simulators in preparation for their first flight this month. LHS sophomore Aragarn Ashby feels like the class is giving him a better preparation for a possible future career in agriculture, “being able to operate a drone will help me survey crops, check on livestock, and take photos of my property.”
While junior Evan Cunningham believes having an FAA-certified license may give him an edge after high school for employment as a photographer.
“I hope to be a photographer or possibly in the film industry and think the experience I am gaining will help me down the road,” said Cunningham.
The program started with an invite to Roscoe, Texas, to tour one of the first high school drone training centers in the nation.
“Roscoe is very similar to Loogootee in size and industry (agriculture-based),” said LHS Principal Chris Walker. “Roscoe is very innovative with its curriculum.”
Roscoe Collegiate High School has several industry-based programs designed to improve student engagement and prepare qualified graduates to enter the workforce.
“Their programs reflect community need and their graduates are industry-ready to begin work in west Texas immediately following high school,” said Walker. “We went to Roscoe to learn about drones, but came back with several great ideas on how to better engage our community and university partners.”
For first-year drone teacher Megan Jones, the idea of teaching and implementing a new curriculum was very exciting for someone with 17 years of teaching experience.
“The students love seeing a completely different view of their world through drone cameras,” she said.
She believes that the skills the students learn during the course will make them more employable as they enter the workforce.
“The industry is very cutting edge and the list of career options is extensive,” said Jones.
The school limited participation to 10 students for the first year of the program. That number is expected to grow in the coming years as Jones plans on introducing the curriculum to middle school students next year.
“I hope to offer additional entry-level courses for middle school students in the next year in order to increase interest,” she said.
Students who want to continue with the program after receiving their FAA license will have the opportunity to complete internships and projects during the second year of the course.
“We are working now to build partnerships with Loogootee and surrounding communities hoping to provide students with real-world experience that will benefit them after high school,” Walker added.
The students are equally excited about the course.
“This is my favorite class,” said Evan Cunningham. “I look forward to my first-block class every day.”