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San Diego College Offers Free Training in Drone Piloting

Grossmont Community College’s program is designed to train novices to become FAA-certified commercial class drone pilots. Demand for the skill is growing rapidly in an industry that could be worth $250 billion worldwide.

(TNS) — The drone industry is growing, and local schools are getting on board by providing training on what the Federal Aviation Administration calls UAS — Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

The demand for drone pilots is skyrocketing, with predictions of a $250 billion industry worldwide this year, according to a news release from Grossmont College.

For the second straight year, Grossmont will offer free training in drone piloting to qualified students because of a $6 million federal America’s Promise grant through the U.S. Department of Labor.

Grossmont’s free noncredit program starts in March and ends in June and drones are provided during the training.

It will be open to U.S. citizens who are at least 18 years of age. According to the release, the school’s program is geared to “veterans, Native Americans, military spouses, ex-offenders, women, high school students and the unemployed and underemployed.”

Grossmont notes that drone training can cost as much as $3,000 in the private sector.

The comprehensive instruction through Grossmont’s Career Technical Education division is designed to train novices to become FAA-certified commercial drone pilots with skills to pursue jobs or to become self-employed.

“We place great importance on recognizing hot new careers and ensuring that our students have the tools they need to forge ahead,” Grossmont College President Nabil Abu-Ghazaleh said in the release.

Drones are becoming more prevalent, from package deliveries to aerial photography to defense applications — with more potential career opportunities coming in the new industry.

Javier Ayala, dean of career and technical education and workforce development at Grossmont, said that contract work for one-time jobs such as industrial inspections can pay from $30,000-$60,000 for a six- to nine-month period, depending on experience and the nature of the mission.

Starting wages for in-house drone operators range from $25-$35 an hour to $60-$100 an hour for fully trained pilots with three or more years of experience. Grossmont’s program prepares graduates for both contract and salaried jobs.

According to a 2013 report by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, by 2025, more than 100,000 jobs will be created in the field. In California, the number of drone-related jobs is expected to climb to 18,000, about a 400 percent increase since 2012.

Grossmont’s drone technology program is comprised of two separate tracks. Interested applicants should register by Feb. 18 for the Surveying and Mapping track and register by Feb. 26 for the Cinematography track.

©2019 The San Diego Union-Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.