MECC Selected for FAA Training Program

BIG STONE GAP, Va. – Mountain Empire Community College announces the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has selected its unmanned aircraft systems courses for the Unmanned Aircraft Systems-Collegiate Training Program, or the UAS-CTI.

The FAA’s UAS-CTI program recognizes institutions that prepare students for careers in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly referred to as drones. To qualify for the initiative, schools must offer a bachelor’s or associates degree in UAS or a degree with a minor, concentration or certificate in UAS. Schools must provide a curriculum covering various aspects of UAS training including hands-on flight practice, maintenance, uses, applications, privacy concerns, safety and federal policies concerning UAS.

With its UAS-CTI membership, MECC can assure its students that the UAS training it offers abides by FAA-mandated standards. “The FAA UAS-CTI program will ensure those trained in commercial UAS applications at MECC are receiving a program that meets FAA performance standards for faculty and instruction,” said MECC President Dr. Kristen Westover, “and that is part of MECC’s commitment to delivering cutting-edge programs that meet high industry standards.”

MECC began offering UAS classes in 2015, and currently offers a Small UAS Operations Technical Studies associate degree program and two Career Studies certificate programs in the field of Smart Farming, which is the study of how modern technology can address agricultural challenges. In addition, the college holds a 94 percent pass rate for all MECC students who take the FAA’s Small Pilot Certificate test—a credential legally required for those who wish to operate drones for commercial purposes.

MECC lead UAS instructor Fred Coeburn, who primarily developed the college’s UAS curriculum, believes that the diverse training offered by the program is one of its strongest attributes.

“Our unmanned systems training focuses on photogrammetry, mapping, infrastructure inspection, thermal plant health, and yield studies along with automated plant seeding and spraying.” Coeburn also noted that it is MECC’s priority to make sure its UAS students are trained “in all phases of mission planning, execution, data processing, equipment purchasing and systems repair.”

MECC currently offers six UAS classes, with class availability varying with each semester. For the Fall 2020 semester, there are currently three UAS classes scheduled to be offered in-person on MECC’s main campus. All in-person classes are currently being delivered in compliance with statewide mandated COVID-19 safety measures, and information regarding those measures can be found at www.mecc.edu/coronavirus.

Those interested in learning more about the UAS program can visit www.mecc.edu/drone or contact Mr. Coeburn at 276-523-2400, ext. 285.