School drone club hopes to propel students into employment
A Winnipeg math teacher is bringing his expertise in drones into the classroom.
Matthew Johnson, a teacher and commercially licensed drone pilot and instructor, started a drone club at Elmwood High School.
It's a club he hopes will provide students with the knowledge and skills they need to get a job flying drones right out of school.
The course offered after school by Johnson, president of M3 Aerial Productions, gives students the chance to complete the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle ground school course. Completing the course is a requirement for anyone who wants to pilot a drone for work purposes.
“It was just this idea that this new teacher at the school was bringing forward and so they just wanted to run with it and see what happened," said Johnson. “I figured it would be a great opportunity. That if I could offer this training to students where they would be able to get certified to become certified drone pilots before they’re out of high school…that when they turn 18, they’ll be able to hit the ground running."
Johnson said there's demand in the agriculture industry for drone pilots.
“We use the drone and we pick up the reflectance value of certain types of plants…and we can pick up if there’s weeds. We can pick up if the plant is stressed for whatever reason, maybe due to too much water, or not enough," said Johnson. “We’re able to go and get a closer look at it, so the farmer doesn’t necessarily have to walk his entire field. Now, he can get a good sense of what’s going on.”
Johnson said drones can also help detect insect and fungus problems.
This is the first year for the drone club. Only two students are taking part this year.
Jayden Block is one of those students. He joined the club because he wants to get his commercial license.
“Pretty interested in drones and kind of saw it as something different than just a toy, so I wanted to see the benefits of it and the potential the drone had. And it just really caught my eye," said Block.
He thinks the skills he picks up from the course could be beneficial to help farmers.
“We’ve learned a lot," said Block. "Like how drones operate, the different types of drones."
Just last week, Transport Canada introduced a new set of rules for recreational drone users. Transport Canada released regulations for commercial pilots in December 2016.
"I actually didn’t realize there were so many rules and regulations that followed with drones recreationally and commercially," said Block.
Johnson said that's why this course is so important; to give students the proper training and education needed to use drones for more than recreation.
Once students complete the course, they still need to write an exam to get a Special Flight Operations Certificate and purchase insurance before they can become commercial drone pilots.