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University students become RPAS pilots as part of their degrees

CDU Bachelor of Environmental Science student Jessica Puntoriero learns to pilot a drone as part of the intensive unit

In an Australian first, tertiary students can now gain commercial drone licences at Charles Darwin University as part of their degrees.

The School of Environment has pioneered the unique two-week intensive unit, introducing students to the evolving world of remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS).

Unit coordinator Dr Hamish Campbell said drone technology was widely used to gather information in the environment sector, along with disaster and emergency management, mineral resource extraction, agriculture and media.

“The ability to fly drones is becoming a highly sought after skill, with the market for services predicted to grow ten-fold over the next decade,” Dr Campbell said.

“This course is the only one of its kind in an Australian university and will give students the licensing, knowledge-base and practical skills to operate remotely piloted aircraft safely for commercial purposes while contributing to their degrees.”

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority requires pilots to be licensed when flying unmanned aircraft for commercial ventures, including research and teaching.

Students will gain an aeronautical radio operators certificate and undergo a minimum of five hours flying experience, along with learning navigation, meteorology, how to read air charts, and the internal workings of RPAS.

They will also discover how to execute effective drone surveys and map the Earth’s surface through landscape models.

Those who successfully complete the unit, which is run in partnership with training provider Fly UAS, will be job ready to fly a range of aircraft weighing up to 7kg.

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