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Wilmington partners with Drone Workforce Solutions for two teen-facing programs

Twenty high school students will be selected to attend the free courses on drone piloting and virtual reality, launching in October.

The drones students trained with at Drone Workforce Solutions in 2017. (Photo by Holly Quinn)

This editorial article is a part of Youth Building the Future Month of's editorial calendar. This month’s theme is underwritten by Verizon 5G. This story was independently reported and not reviewed by Verizon.

Some of the fastest-growing, highest paying careers are in fields that may be off the radar of most high schools. Drone piloting, for example, is a field that can pay up to $100 an hour for licensed operators in a growing numbers of industries, including agriculture, emergency services and real estate. Likewise, virtual reality 360 photography is a skill that is increasingly in demand, especially in the real estate industry.

This October, 20 high school students will have the opportunity to attend two new training and career programs supported by the City of Wilmington and a partnership with Drone Workforce Solutions Drone School (DWS).

Theo Nix, Jr. started DWSl in 2015, and in 2017, began offering 10-week training sessions culminating in passing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) drone pilot test. At $7,900, the comprehensive course is relatively inexpensive, but out of reach for many high school students interested in pursuing the field.

The alternative — buying a recreational drone and watching instructional videos on the internet — may be accessible, but it won’t cut it for those serious about becoming a professional drone pilot.

“There are people doing it online, making quick money,” Nix told in 2017. “We believe that this is the way to do it for staying power. … What we’re doing is looking at this for the long-term, to employ young people in an industry that’s not dying.”

Ten students accepted into the high school drone training course will receive City-funded scholarships covering all course costs, the FAA exam, lunches, and transportation to and from the classes at the DWS headquarters located at the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce on the Christina waterfront. Courses will be held Saturdays starting Oct. 23 for 16 weeks.

Another 10 students will be accepted into the DWS VR course, a four-week session starting Oct. 23 at the William “Hicks” Anderson Community Center at 501 N. Madison St.

Those who successfully complete the courses will also receive a six- to 12-week paid internship.

According to Nix, the students in the drone course will learn:

  • Both unmanned aerial vehicles and unmanned aircraft systems
  • The rules, regulations and laws regarding drone operations, including FAA drone governance
  • The anatomy of drones currently on the market
  • The principles of flight, including Newton’s Laws of Motion, Bernoulli’s Principle, airspeed and gravity
  • Flight safety and assessment of conditions including weather and site issues
  • Aerial photography and videography and their concepts, including lighting, shutter speed and lens filters
  • 3D mapping from the sky via DroneDeploy software
  • And, of course, how to fly the drones

Students in the VR course will learn:

  • Virtual reality and 3D virtualization concepts
  • The equipment and cameras currently on the market
  • The technology of 360 cameras, 3D scanning cameras and software for editing
  • Safety and assessment of conditions including weather and site issues
  • How to plan a VR photoshoot including pre- and post-capture procedures, photography and videography
  • How to become a businessperson as a VR operator

Interested 11th and 12th grade students should attend one of the three informational sessions at the Hicks Community Center on Sept. 23, Sept. 28 or Oct. 5 at 6:30 p.m.

Series: Youth Building the Future Month 2021

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