College Part of New FAA Training Initiative for Drones Program | Virginia Peninsula Community College

College Part of New FAA Training Initiative for Drones Program

August 12, 2021
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Thomas Nelson’s Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (drones) program has been approved for the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Collegiate Training Initiative.

The initiative is a new program designed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for universities, colleges, and technical schools to recognize institutions that prepare students for careers in Unmanned Aircraft Systems – commonly referred to as drones. Thomas Nelson is one of only two Virginia community colleges to be approved.

“The UAS-CTI program is an example of both the FAA and Thomas Nelson’s commitment to preparing a diverse and inclusive labor force,” said Dr. Towuanna Porter Brannon, the College’s president.

Julie Young, head of the College’s Mechanical Engineering Technology program who is among the program’s instructors, credits two organizations for the success of students at Thomas Nelson.

One is the GeoTEd-UAS Faculty Institute. The Institute is part of the GeoTEd-UAS project which is led by the Virginia Space Grant Consortium (VSGC) and Thomas Nelson is a primary partner in the project. That institute provided Young with training in the operation of drones and supported her in establishing a Career Studies Certificate in Unmanned Systems at the College. The second key group is the National Science Foundation, which awarded a project grant to the VSGC for the GeoTEd-UAS project to fund the training Young and other college educators received.

Thomas Nelson offers four interactive, engaging unmanned systems (UMS) courses that will provide training to fast track students into a career in sUAS. The classes also augment current skill sets allowing students to prepare for jobs in multiple careers. Cherie Aukland (GeoTEd-UAS CoPI), associate professor of Information Technology and program head for Geographic Information Systems (GIS) at Thomas Nelson, was a co-author of the classes and helped establish them in the Virginia Community College System catalog. The classes are:


  • UMS 107 Remote Pilot Ground School: Learn the rules and regulations to legally fly drones. UMS 101 prepares students to take the FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot Certification Exam. No pre-requisite is required.
  • UMS 111 Introduction to Small UAS (sUAS) – The Manual Flight sUAS class: The College will provide drones for students to use. No-pre-requisite is required to take the class.
  • UMS 177 sUAS Components and Maintenance: Students learn about the components of a drone and build a drone in class.
  • UMS 211 Advanced Small UAS (sUAS) – The Autonomous Flight class: The UMS 111 course is a pre-requisite to take this class.

Learn more about Thomas Nelson’s UMS (Drones) programs, including class schedules, by clicking here. Get more details about the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Collegiate Training Initiative by clicking here.