Traverse City News and Events

NMC Receives $90,000 FAA Grant To Train 40 High School Teachers In Unmanned Aerial Systems

By Craig Manning | Dec. 8, 2021

Northwestern Michigan College (NMC) has received a grant that will allow it to train teachers – and, by extension, students – in how to use Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). The grant, an “aviation workforce development grant” from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), is intended “to address the need for operators and technicians in the growing UAS field.” In total, NMC will receive $90,000 that will allow the college to train 40 high school teachers in “UAS fundamentals.”

The International Trade Administration defines UAS technology as “air vehicles and associated equipment that do not carry a human operator, but instead are remotely piloted or fly autonomously.” A UAS may be referred to more commonly as an “unmanned aerial vehicle” (or UAV) or simply as a “drone.”

The $90,000 in grant funds headed to NMC, in addition to paying for the training of dozens of high school teachers, will also equip each teacher “with a multi-rotor unit to use with their students.” One of NMC’s hopes is that extending drone training to high schools will help bring growth to its own UAS program. “By equipping high school teachers with the skills, knowledge, technology, and certifications required to develop new UAS programs or update existing ones, alignments will occur between the high school programs and NMC, making the pathway to industry and employment more attainable,” said an NMC press release that announced the grant.

Last year, the FAA gave NMC’s drone training program a strong endorsement by naming it a part of the UAS Collegiate Training Initiative (UAS-CTI). That program is essentially meant to create stronger connections between the FAA and schools that deliver UAS training, to ensure that students are receiving up-to-date training that meets all federal requirements. In order to be selected for UAS-CTI, programs have to meet a variety of criteria, including “having an accredited Associate degree focusing on UAS, FAA certification of UAS pilots, operation of both multi-rotor and airplane style systems, training in functional areas including agriculture, environmental services, infrastructure and utility inspections, petroleum, oil and gas inspections, and public safety.”

As of now, NMC is the only UAS-CTI in Michigan.

That status likely helped NMC score the workforce development grant despite a highly competitive application process. “Requests for project support far exceeded the $5 million Congress made available in fiscal year 2020,” wrote grant manager Miranda Haywood in NMC’s award letter. “You are to be commended for an extraordinary response to the FAA opportunity.”

NMC’s selection as a UAS-CTI program is also helping the college build a reputation for itself as Michigan’s key educational resource for UAS training. According to the press release, there is currently “a preliminary statewide articulation agreement” in place that allows students of any high school UAS program in Michigan to earn NMC credit for UAS classes. “NMC currently has a strong relationship with the Charlevoix-Emmet ISD and Harbor Springs High School, and has created pathways for students there to continue their education at NMC,” the release noted.

Similarly, NMC’s $90,000 in grant funding won’t just be focused on putting drones in the hands of local teachers, but will be open to teachers from schools throughout the state. Training is expected to take place next summer at NMC’s private airfield in Yuba, where selected teachers will learn how to conduct a complete UAS flight “from startup to shut down.”  Teachers will also be required to enroll in a 10-week remote pilot test preparation course online and pass the FAA Remote Pilot Certification exam.

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