Lenoir Community College launches state’s first drone piloting degree program

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KINSTON, N.C. (WNCT) – The drone phenomenon soaring across the world is about to reach new heights in eastern North Carolina, as Lenoir Community College launches the state’s first associates degree program in drone piloting.

LCC got the all clear to launch the program just weeks ago when the Federal Aviation Administration issued new rules allowing routine commercial use of drones.

The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Degree will be added as a third track in the Aviation Major, which already includes Traditional Piloting and Aviation Management.

Program Director Jeff Jennings says in the coming years, up to 80% of commercial drone use will be for agriculture, but that’s not all they’re focused on.

“Our goal, in the beginning, is to produce some unmanned aircraft entrepreneurship. I think that’s where it’s going to start and from there, the ideas are going to flow,” Jennings said.

Jennings says they’ll also train drone pilots going into photography, mapping, military and other industries.

Coursework will teach students about everything from air traffic control and FAA regulations to weather and mapping. Jennings says it will be an easy transition into other piloting careers.

“It’s basically a program that is completely wrapped around the traditional pilot program but instead of flying an airplane, we will offer two classes where we will be flying unmanned aircraft systems,” Jennings said.

Drone sales reached 6.4 million in 2015 and are expected to increase more than tenfold over the next 5 years. Jennings says that makes the need for informed drone pilots greater than ever before.

The program takes flight August 15.

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