The subject of drones attracted a lot of attention during this year’s Florida Legislative Session. The devices are also the subject of a new Tallahassee Community College program that sees the technology as a huge jobs creator.
Collen Dwyer is the associate director of TCC’s Wakulla Environmental Institute.
“If you think of Pat Thomas and what it’s been to law enforcement, we want to be the same for the environment,” Dwyer explained. “Our largest issue within Wakulla County is looking at trying to rehab the economy there, be it through tourism, job creation, training.”
Dwyer said the need to provide a more formal approach to the ever-increasing use of un-manned aerial vehicles had become apparent.
“One of our board of trustees who works for the City of Tallahassee in the facilities department, they were trying to take a water sample with a flying drone and the drone wound up drowning,” she recalled. “This was the second drone they had drowned and they realized they should talk to TCC and WEI (the Wakulla Environmental Institute) and see if they could work this out. And at the time we had a water management program and he thought maybe we could tie that into this and Bob was like, ‘No, no! Let’s do a program all on its own.’”
“Bob” by the way is Wakulla Environmental Institute Director Bob Ballard. Enter Bruce Buckley. He has extensive background in unmanned vehicles, the flying version of which most people call “drones”. He saw opportunity and also connected with the Gulf Unmanned Systems Center in Carrabelle. It’s a major training, research, and development facility for land, water and air-based robotics. He’s the program instructor.
“I’m really excited!” he said. “I also live in Wakulla County and I do see the need down there for job creation and watching the environment and I think it’s a great fit. I think it will bring a lot of great, technologically advanced jobs to Wakulla County.”
Buckley said the program will provide students with a total understanding all the technical and legal aspects of drone operation, along with how to collect and interpret data.
“You can train them to pilot an un-manned boat to work environmental impact and so forth, maybe watch the oyster beds, take water samples and so forth. Or maybe you teach them to fly a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) – a drone – and do analysis from above. But I truly believe you can take just about anyone and teach them un-manned technologies, how to operate and utilize these in an efficient manner.”
Successful completion of the program will result in student certification. The twelve-week introductory course will be underway before long and Dwyer said there’s an upcoming opportunity for prospective students to check out the program in advance.
“We have actually got an open house, which is going to be June 5 from 3 to 5 p.m. on TCC’s main campus. That’s going to be in the Lifetime (Sports) Complex and they’ll actually be able to come and talk with some of the instructors along with other staff from Gulf Un-manned Systems where Bruce works to hear more about job opportunities and also to register on site.”
Anyone interested can also go online to the TCC website: https://www.tcc.fl.edu/ and check out the program there as well. And please remember, even though everyone calls them “drones”, the real term is “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.”