Aviation Students Get Drone Demonstration in Des Moines

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DES MOINES, Iowa - Just as stealthily as they infiltrate enemy territory for the military, drones have inserted themselves into the public conversation for the past couple of years now. Slowly but surely, they're making their way into commercial avenues as well - from Amazon's development of delivery drones, to farmers finding ways to use the technology in their fields.

So, it makes sense that schools would start looking into educational programs that would train students for a future in this emerging industry. At least, that's what the Des Moines Public Schools' Aviation Program is doing.

"Currently, the stats show that there's more jobs than there are qualified mechanics (and pilots) to replace that," said Rick McDonald, an aviation instructor for Central Campus. "With the drones being added to the program, that's just going to increase the amount of jobs out there."

Students in McDonald's class were exposed to a drone demonstration Wednesday by representatives from Lewis University in Chicago, Illinois. While the Federal Aviation Administration is not expected to release regulations for commercial drone use until 2015, the school already has an "Unmanned Aviation Operations" degree for its students. The DMPS Aviation Program says it wants its students to know of these options, and be prepared for them.

"The career field itself is a good paying career field," McDonald said. "So it is a high-tech job. It takes about three years to get your training - to be able to test for your FAA license - so we're giving these kids a head-start, rather than waiting until they're into their twenties."

Students who partake in the DMPS Aviation Program have the opportunity to complete nearly half of their degree in flight mechanics or operations before they graduate high school. As drones continue to find their way into more industries, aspiring pilots and aviation mechanics will have to work with more than just conventional airplanes.