The Drones are Coming……

Until recently drone integration has focussed mostly on agriculture and other sectors in our region. Comparatively little attention has been paid to the use of drones in marine related sectors. Here on the Oregon coast we are in the center of marine research with NOAA and OSU/Hatfield having stationed their research efforts locally.  Oregon State University is moving ahead with its Marine Studies Initiative, and our program is gaining momentum and is positioned in the middle of all this activity, acting in its role as a high school partner.


Our 9th – 12th grade students at Career Tech Charter High School are partnering and collaborating with researchers at these institutions. These scientists have become our teachers while we work side-by-side with them doing marine research, including:

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

Add to this funding and support for the Coastal Drone Academy by our many sponsors and collaborators and we become part of the economic future of the coast of Oregon and our students are on the path to good jobs in aviation and marine science research. Our Oregon Department of Education approved courses are described in the following sections.

In the words of our newest pilots, a local paper did an article in which they asked them and the Coastal Drone Academy staff to reflect on what the drone program means to them: Coastal Drone Academy Makes the News .

Coastal Habitat Management Projects

This is a research-based education module that involves students working on longer-term projects directly with our marine science clients and collaborators, building on their knowledge of drones and how they apply directly to their coastal habitat missions.

This is a capstone course reserved for seniors that have mastered flight platforms, sensors, and aircraft, normally reserved for those that have earned their FAA 107 Commercial Pilots License, their USI Safety Certificate, demonstrated proficiency on  Pix4DMapper and have a strong logbook reflecting PIC (pilot in command) time on our most advanced sUAS technologies where student’s accuracy in mapping is strictly monitored.

Advanced Coastal Drone Missions 1 (Fall Term)

Our pilots with the most logged hours are assigned the task of carrying out two kinds of mission, wildlife surveys hoping to help prominent local fisheries and wildlife researchers and mapping.  DroneDeploy Figure


There are four levels of mapping illustrated here starting with a “Fast Aerial View”.  Students in Advanced Coastal Drone Missions carry these our since they have made top grades in prerequisite sUAS (small Unmanned Aerial Systems) courses.

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 coastal erosion, estuarine mapping, salmon spawning grounds mapping, coastal forestry, and construction management mapping. Some of our advanced coastal drone missions are shown here:




Interviews for Coastal Drone Academy


Programming drone 2Interviews are held in August for the year’s cohort of pilots. A second round of interviews takes place in January for filling empty positions.

Introduction to Coastal Drones course is where most students start. If you have experience with flying drones your may want to apply for Coastal Drone Operations. Only 6 students will be accepted for each class. A list of backups will be maintained.

Criteria for acceptance in the program include:

  1. Interviews focus on finding students for specific skill development and who would contribute most to our ongoing missions and projects.
  2. Computer skills are needed as the basis for learning to fly using tablets, and doing programing of drones using laptops.
  3. Camera and film making skills are a bonus.
  4. Equipment care and maintenance will emphasized since students will be issued expensive electronics for the course.
  5. Emphasis will be made on attendance, since sessions are only once a week and material is cumulative. Unexcused absences result in removal from the course and assignment of your drone and tablet to a student from the waiting lists.
  6. The greatest emphasis is on a student’s work ethic, and ability to convert skills into accomplishments.




Coastal Drone Operations 1 (Fall Class Schedule)


“Operations” classes have a lecture, lab and field session and are scheduled for Fridays starting at 8am.  An aviation field trip is planned and two full sessions of aviation project proposal writing and delivery are scheduled for early December. The curriculum for “operations” appears below.

Lecture: This course introduces students to UAS operations using Phantom quadcopter and fixed winged platforms, sensors and terminology. Continues to explores integration and application of UAS resources in United States airspace. Focuses on building and executing simulated operations in a non- combative environment. Content includes second half of Part 107 ground school instruction. Lab: Student teams are issued commercial grade drones which are used to create orthophoto, topographic, vegetation, and 3D aerial maps while following lesson plans in radio communications, performance, physiological factors, decision making, airport operations, maintenance and preflight procedures.

Introduction to Coastal Drones 1 (Fall Class Schedule)

Career Tech HS students and drone crew chief flying obstacle course with Phantom 3 at Lincoln City ball park

“Intro” classes have a lecture, lab and field session and are scheduled for Mondays starting at 8am. This class starts with a nationally recognized curriculum called the Unmanned Safety Institute Safety Course. In addition we teach our own introductory course curriculum whichis provided below.

IMG-0967Curriculum: Lecture: 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. Lab: 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; A module is being prepared allowing student to build their own drone and fly it. Field: 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.

Registering drones with FAA