Triumph Gulf Coast is setting aside funds it hopes will help students soar thanks to a drone training program the board recently approved.
Wakulla County Schools will soon be getting a new program they hope will help get their students into the workforce after graduation. Sunny Chancy is the county’s Chief Academic Officer.
“What we aim to do is train our students grades 9 thru 12 in general aviation," explaind Chancy. "Help them understand what airspace looks like, what maps look like, and give them the tools they need in order to fly not only mid-level but high-level drones and then get certified in the drone flying. With the potential of hopefully moving into the workforce or post-secondary education in order to enhance their skills and then get a high wage high skill job.”
Former Senator Don Gaetz chairs Triumph Gulf Coast. He says the nonprofit group is funding the project because board members think it has great potential.
“If we don’t have a qualified workforce, then we will not be able to really have the economic growth that we’re trying to achieve. So a critical foundation piece in everything Triumph Gulf Coast is doing is making sure that we support a qualified workforce. That means industry certifications," said Gaetz.
Triumph’s education and workforce adviser Frank Fuller says the unmanned drone program will help students get those certifications.
"The key to the training here is this is the same training these kids are going to get that adults get. It’s FAA approved, it’s high-end, they have to take a test and pass it in order to get certifie," said Fuller.
Fuller says he has already identified certain jobs where drones are used.
“The easiest example with this hurricane State Farm and several agencies, they had to retrain all their people coming down here to use drones are they would’ve never gotten their job done," said Fuller.
State Farm and other insurance companies use drones to check roofs for damage after hurricanes. Emergency Management crews also use drones to identify damage and pathways that may be cut off instead of sending people out into possible danger.
And Chancy says the program could open the door for other potential jobs.
“The intent is to get them started in the drone project and then light a fire. So if they would like to move forward commercial pilot maybe maintenance of aircrafts, then they would have the potential, the background and the knowhow," said Chancy.
Chancy says so far Triumph has been a huge help in getting the county prepared to offer the new program to students.
"Triumph Gulf Coast has been instrumental in allowing us to purchase some of the drones to train the teachers. We’re doing not only the drone technology program in our secondary schools, but were also doing the information computer technology program in our primary grades to expose the students to the curriculum that they’re going to need to take those higher level certifications when they get into secondary school," said Chancy.
The Drone Certification Program is expected to costs $1 million and 780 thousand dollars.
During the meeting the board also approved a welding program for a high school in Gulf County. Triumph Gulf Coast is charged with distributing settlement money to the eight North Florida counties impacted by the BP oil spill The funds are to be used for recovery and enhancement.