We merge marine science, education and drones.

“The Coastal Drone Academy is a model example of how high schools across America can implement successful career and technical education programs with successful student outcomes, and USI is honored to be a part of their story.”  Aaron Greenwald, President of the Unmanned Safety Institute (USI).

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Through USI we have a nationally recognized aviation curriculum and do cutting edge marine science research with our university, federal, and state agency marine scientist partners.

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These scientists are our teachers while we work side-by-side with them, learning their trade while assisting them, doing marine science research tasks with them such as:

  • Monitoring protected and endangered marine species and their habitats
  • Supporting assessments of fisheries stocks and habitat assessments
  • Monitoring effects of climate change, coastal erosion and sea level rise
  • Monitoring sea grass and marsh health

12th Grade Courses: Coastal Resource Management (Summer Drone Camps)

Our fourth year class follows a research-based education module that involves students working on longer-term projects directly with industry partners, building on their knowledge of drones and how they apply directly to their coastal habitat missions. cropped-ebee1.png

At this point our pilots have an FAA Drone Pilot license, are working on a USI Pro rating on at least one flight platform, and have a strong logbook reflecting PIC (pilot in command) time, on our most advanced sUAS technologies. Many of our students have now mastered our most advanced equipment and software, and realize a commercial drone pilot is required to manage data and software, that the client often needs their data managed (you are never just a pilot).

11th Grade Courses: Advanced Coastal Drone Missions 1 and 2 (Fall and Spring Terms)

This course introduces students to UAS operations using quadcopter including the DJI Matrice 600 quadcopter and the Sensefly eBeeSQ fixed wing drones.mi-600Our third year pilots have a log book beginning to bulge with commercial flight time. This year they are assigned the task of carrying out two kinds of missions. The first kind of mission is aerial photography for local city and watershed managers.  Students learn to program and use these flight platforms in this operations course.

The second type of mission is the study of fisheries and wildlife distribution where we conduct low altitude, precision flying, aerial photography, and videography revolving around the programming of an autopilot program called Litchi. We focus on whales and salmon.

This course introduces students to advanced unmanned aerial systems (UAS) mission planning and operation, as they progress to higher level simulation and mission planning/ execution. Lab/Field: Student teams launch, recover and maintain advanced Unmanned Aerial Systems. Current projects are underway and planned in wetlands restoration monitoring, seagrass bed mapping, whale and salmon observation.

10th Grade Course: Coastal Drone Operations 1 and 2 (Fall and Spring Terms)

In this course, students continue to explore integration and application of UAS resources in United States airspace.eBeeSQ

They focus on building and executing simulated operations. The content includes the second half of Part 107 ground school instruction. Each student is issued a ready to fly quad copter drone which is used to create photo mosaics, topographic, vegetation, and 3D aerial maps while following lesson plans in radio communications, performance, physiological factors, decision making, airport operations, maintenance and pre-flight procedures. In addition students experience flying a fixed wing drone over larger areas.

9th Grade Course: Introduction to Coastal Drones 1 and 2 (Fall and Spring Terms)

Students are issued an RTF (ready to fly) drone trainer and learn to fly them using lesson plans in airspace, weather, performance, loading, emergency procedures, and crew resource management.

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First year pilot Matt Novi retrieves a Phantom 3 4K after flying a coastal mission (photo by Newport News Times)

This course introduces students to unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and surveys current UAS platforms, sensors, terminology, challenges to integrating UAS to the national airspace system and operations under FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) regulations for small unmanned aircraft (Part 107). Content includes first half of Part 107 ground school instruction. Field trips are planned to an airport, a tower, a flight museum, and a flight service center. All other field hours are dedicated to flying drones and building logged hours.