BEEBE, Ark. (KTHV) - Students are becoming drone pilots through unmanned aerial systems (UAS) program that’s being offered at 18 Arkansas high schools. Beebe High School was the first school in the state to offer drone classes.
"Once we found there was this huge community of people that flew drones, collected data, big military presence, we took it from there," said Chad Mercado, UAS teacher at Beebe High School. "These kids can actually get certified to make money and they only have to be 16 years old."
Chad Mercado teaches three done classes at Beebe High School. He started teaching the courses five years ago, but over the past two years has been using the QTL ExplorNet Program.
"They learn all about the safety and regulations related to working with the drone, they learn to design and build the drones," said Angela McCallie, CEO of QTL ExplorNet, which offers three levels of drone courses at 18 Arkansas schools.
Drones are used for search and rescue, military missions and aerial photography.
"Inspection of roofs after disasters like hurricanes, search and rescue, public safety, fire thermal energy cameras let them search for people," said McCallie.
Students learn how to build and how to fly for real-world application.
"This opportunity for us gives us a head up in the game, like when we get to part 107, were already set and a lot of the college stuff there teaching for a degree in college, we’re already doing in here," said Beebe sophomore Seth Howard.
Students can pass the Part 107 drone certification course, taking the classroom to new heights.
“There’s really no end to what you can do once you have an aerial view," said Mercado.
Tuesday, QTL ExplorNet is holding its second annual Arkansas Drone Conference for high school students. It will show the 350 students in attendance what drones are used for and what agencies use them. Schools interested in possibly adopting the program will also be attending.