For Immediate Release:
January 25, 2023
Primary Media Contact:
Public Relations Specialist
Laurel Ridge Community College is excited to announce that its drone program has been accepted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the Unmanned Aircraft Systems-Collegiate Training Initiative program (UAS-CTI).
The college offers two career studies certificates (CSCs) related to drones, also referred to as small, unmanned aircraft systems, or sUAS. One CSC is for sUAS flight operator, designed to help students prepare for the FAA Remote Pilot Certification Exam, known as Part 107, in addition to training them in general maintenance and repair, data collection and processing of aerial images, videos and spatial data.
The second CSC is for sUAS Flight Technician, preparing students for flight mission planning, ground control operations, crew management, sensor selection, drone programming, geospatial analysis and more. Students can use both certifications towards the completion of an associate of applied science degree in technical studies.
“Our two certificates recently received approval from our regional accreditor and the program is now an FAA-approved Collegiate Training Initiative program, which when combined with our assortment of enterprise-level multirotor and fixed-wing drones, will provide our students with the knowledge, skill, and flight time to launch a career as a remote pilot,” said Dr. Craig Santicola, dean of Laurel Ridge’s School of Professional Programs. “We are excited to be a regional resource for uncrewed aircraft systems and look forward to serving our students and community in this capacity.
“Being a part of the FAA UAS Collegiate Training Initiative provides us access to a wealth of opportunities. Not only will we help lead the regional dialogue with local governments and industry to address labor force needs, our students will benefit from a variety of training tools, resources, and guidelines that will prepare them for careers. In working with the FAA and our regional partners, the goal is to prepare a pipeline of sUAS professionals while continuing to maintain the safety of the National Airspace System.”
Members of the UAS-CTI are invited to participate in annual meetings and other FAA events, and the FAA will serve as a facilitator for developing and sharing best practices.
“As a UAS-CTI member, Laurel Ridge will receive numerous benefits, including recruiting and marketing opportunities, access to FAA resources, having our name listed on the FAA’s website and technical support,” said Computer Science Professor Melissa Stange, who is a certified remote pilot. “More importantly, our students will receive help with job placements, internships and other opportunities. Not only are drones a career field, but part of a growing technology key to other programs the college offers, including Administration of Justice, Computer Science, Emergency Medical Services, Information Systems Technology and Cybersecurity.”
Dean Santicola noted that since the sUAS industry is still relatively new, many people might not have considered drone pilot as a viable career option.
“However, we are seeing an increase in use across many industries in Virginia and the region as a whole, and our career studies certificates are focused on training students to operate high-quality, enterprise-level drones for commercial applications,” said Dr. Santicola. “Sure, flying them can be fun, but ZipRecruiter has the average salary for commercial remote pilots in Virginia listed at $70,905 and the demand for highly-qualified flight operators and flight technicians is increasing quickly. “
To qualify for the FAA’s UAS-CTI initiative, schools must offer a bachelor’s or associate degree in UAS, or a degree with a minor, concentration, or certificate in UAS. Schools must provide curriculum covering various aspects of UAS training, including hands-on flight practice, maintenance, uses, applications, privacy concerns, safety, and federal policies concerning UAS.
Learn more about Laurel Ridge’s drones courses at laurelridge.edu/drones.
Founded in 1970, Laurel Ridge Community College is a multi-campus public institution of higher education. With four locations — Middletown, Warrenton, Luray-Page County and most recently, Vint Hill— the College serves eight localities in the Shenandoah Valley and northern Piedmont regions. The localities are the counties of Clarke, Fauquier, Frederick, Page, Rappahannock, Shenandoah and Warren and the city of Winchester. Laurel Ridge offers more than 75 associate degree and certificate programs in a wide variety of disciplines, in addition to providing access to bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs offered on site by a four-year institution. Laurel Ridge also serves the business community by offering workforce preparation programs for employees and employers. Laurel Ridge serves more than 9,000 unduplicated credit students and more than 11,000 individuals in professional development and business and industry courses annually.
Laurel Ridge Community College (Laurel Ridge) is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award associate degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Laurel Ridge Community College. Laurel Ridge Community College is an equal opportunity institution providing educational and employment opportunities, programs, services, and activities and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, age, religion, disability, national origin, marital status, political affiliation, sexual orientation, or other non-merit factors. Laurel Ridge also prohibits sexual misconduct including sexual violence or harassment.
Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.