Columbia Gorge Community College joins national training consortium for unmanned aerial systems

August 20, 2020

The Columbia Gorge region, already known as a technology leader in Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), reached another milestone this summer, as Columbia Gorge Community College joined a nation- wide collegiate training initiative organized through the Federal Aviation Administration.

Reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 2018 required the agency to establish a UAS training initiative through agreements with institutions of higher education that prepare students for careers involving autonomous systems. Two-year institutions so designated become members of a “Consortium for Small Unmanned Aircraft System Technology Training.”

Mike Davis, UAS instructor at Columbia Gorge Community College, learned in August that the FAA had approved his application on the college’s behalf. As an accredited institution through the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, CGCC qualified because it offers a certificate in UAS studies. The 12-credit “Unmanned Aircraft Systems” (UAS) professional certificate prepares students for jobs in such diverse industries as agriculture, firefighting and public safety. Students who complete the certificate are prepared to sit for the Part 107 Remote Pilot exam, Pix4D certification, and Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) Trusted Operator Program certification, levels 1-3.

“Our designation in the UAS Collegiate Training Initiative will ensure the public and our industry partners that we are offering the highest quality of UAS education,” Davis said. “This confirms our commitment to UAS training, and we look forward to involvement with the FAA program.”
The FAA will invite consortium members to participate in annual meetings and other events with the agency, and help share best practices.

“This collaboration will ensure that UAS graduates have the knowledge and skills needed to pursue a successful career in a UAS-related field,” the FAA stated in its program announcement. “These new partners will support the FAA's efforts to expand the aviation workforce of the future while providing additional opportunities for Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) students.”

“I credit Mike for taking the lead on attaining this designation for the college's UAS program,” said Mary Kramer, Dean of Career, Technical and Pre-College programs at CGCC.

In addition, the designation complements CGCC’s plans to establish an aviation technician training program, which will require separate FAA approval. The college has developed a curriculum for FAA review, which will be submitted when CGCC obtains access to a training hangar. With that in mind, CGCC is working with community partners on both sides of the Columbia Gorge to secure the needed training space.

“Meanwhile, the college’s UAS training program is already in place, going strong, and will gain new impetus from its designation as a Center of Excellence,” Kramer emphasized.