Students train to pilot commercial drones in new ‘first of its kind’ class

Drone Class at South Anchorage High School

[Editor’s Note: There are 40 students on the waitlist. The class will count as an elective science credit.]

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Buzzing in the main halls, the whir of drones flying overhead could be heard at South Anchorage High School on Wednesday afternoon.

Behind the controls, students. Directing the students, teacher Lee Butterfield.

A new ‘first-of-its-kind’ class offered at no other high school in the country launched this fall and is teaching students how to properly fly unmanned aerial systems for commercial purposes. Young videographers are lining up to take the class, with the wait-list already reported at 40 students.

During the previous spring semester, a drone class was offered at South High as an after school club. But with the conjoined efforts of Butterfield along with the volunteered time and resources of a local commercial drone operation, Alaska Aerial Media, a full curriculum was devised and approved to count as an elective science credit.

In the class, students not only learn how to fly drones, but also are taught extensive knowledge on aviation vocabulary, plotting points on a map using trigonometry, the engineering involved for UAVs, as well as many other aeronautical subjects.

At the end of the semester, students are expected to be able to pass a test to receive their Part 107 license. The FAA announced in June all commercial drone pilots must be Part 107 certified.


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