High fliers

About 20 Technical NAF Career Academy students flew drones through a makeshift obstacle course to showcase their newly acquired expertise at Olympic High's Drone Fly Day Nov. 11.

The event was the culmination of six weeks of aviation instruction. Students used simulators in the after-school program, which will help them earn a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certificate.

"We want to provide anything we can for students that promotes awareness and exploration," said Mike Realon, Career Technical Education (CTE) Academy coordinator at the Olympic Community of Schools.

There are projected to be 100,000 jobs affiliated with the drone-flying industry, Realon said. Drones can save money, and possibly lives, on some kinds of large-scale jobs. One example would be inspecting wind turbines in the ocean, where a company could spend $10,000 a day just to fund a boat to reach them.

"Anything to do with inspections, anything that's dangerous, you will be able to use a drone to do it," Realon said, "and cottage industries are popping up as people find out about drone uses."

The program was free of charge through Olympic's partnership with Centura Education but would normally cost $1,200 per student, Realon said. Students must pass an FAA test to receive a certificate. Students schedule the exam on their own and CTE pays for it.

James Freeman is a junior in the School of Technology, Entrepreneurship and Advanced Manufacturing at Olympic. He plans to go into game development but decided to pursue the FAA certificate to have another option.

"I'm grounded in the engineering field but I like to do a little bit of everything," he said. "I recommend the program – it's serious but it's also really fun."