Hinds CC a training ground for USACE drone technology

Published 7:16 pm Tuesday, March 5, 2019

By Danny Barrett Jr.

Hinds CC Public Relations

RAYMOND – Hinds Community College is playing a vital role in building skills for Army employees working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

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Recent revisions to USACE policies require pilots and operators of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), or drones, be licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration. An initial step toward that licensure, a Remote Pilot Certificate (Part 107), involves a theory class that provides an in-depth review of all applicable FAA regulations and operational requirements to fly small UAS for commercial purposes.

“Hinds Community College takes pride in offering innovative programs and training that meets the needs of business and industry, keeping them at the forefront of the ever-changing technology,” said Dr. Chad Stocks, vice president for Workforce and Economic Development at Hinds. “Hinds leads the state and region in UAS training. The college’s workforce division recognizes the rapid growth in the UAS industry and how important, safe operation and solid understanding of federal regulations are to those piloting the drones.”

Staffers of various positions in the Corps, including those at the Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, are benefiting from studying aeronautical charts and the various classes of airspace. This training is key to the UAS course and fits well with the scope of existing digital mapping technology already used by Corps personnel.

“This program is an excellent step in the right direction for ensuring a high-quality training program is in place,” said Jason Kirkpatrick, program manager responsible for UAS operations in the Corps. “An enterprise program like the USACE UAS effort cannot accept less than outstanding training.”

Employees at ERDC in Vicksburg are already measuring the benefits of the training.

“I work with a lot of high-speed photography in my job, so this will add to my capabilities,” said Kevin Tillman, with the Geotechnical and Structures Lab at ERDC.

Students enrolled in the formal UAS program at Hinds are trained in the piloting, construction, design and practical mechanics of multi-rotor and fixed-wing drones. The aircraft have revolutionized airborne data collection in the past decade. In 2015, a 2+2 agreement was established between Hinds and Mississippi State University for students in the program to earn credentials and become job-ready.

“The Remote Pilot Certificate is the foundation to UAS pilots operating for USACE in civil and military research projects,” said Jenny Laird, the ERDC Aircrew Training Program Manager. “Hinds plays a critical role in providing this course, which is required for any UAS mission. The Part 107 certification gives drone pilots the knowledge needed to operate properly and safely in the National Airspace. The Educational Partnership Agreement that has been established between Hinds and ERDC has allowed for a seamless integration into Department of Defense guidelines. Through this agreement, Hinds has already trained 30 personnel, with an additional 15 scheduled for March 2019.”