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Aviation, Drones and Night Out at Laurel Ridge Community College

In promotion of its newly launched drone program, Laurel Ridge Community College in Middletown, Va. hosted an Aviation, Drones and National Night out event on Tuesday, August 2.

Approximately 100 people attended the evening’s festivities, which let the community learn more about its drone program and allowed potential students the opportunity to fly drones. Melissa Strange, a Laurel Ridge computer science teacher who is leading the program said it will prepare students for the Federal Aviation Administration exam that must be passed in order to obtain a remote pilot certificate and be able to fly a drone.

“It’s more than just studying for a test and taking the exam and passing it to get your pilot’s license,” Strange said. “We want to promote safety, but we want people to see that the UASs are beyond more than just toys.”

There were several professional drone experts and businesses on site to discuss the rising industry, provide demonstrations and help attendees fly drones. Some experts and businesses attending Drone Day included a Virginia Tech representative, Skydio (a drone manufacturing company), the Virginia Space Grant Consortium, the FAA and Greenway Engineering.

The Virginia Department of Aviation was on hand with its ICON A5 Introduction to Flight Team to present the light sport amphibious aircraft. Community members were able to sit in the airplane and ask questions to DOAV staff about aviation and potential careers.

“I received a lot of positive feedback on how the DOAV team educated community members not only on the plane, but the different types of licenses like sport vs. private pilot’s license,” Strange said. “Several people were amazed watching it being set up. Kids loved sitting in it and one little girl said she wanted to be a pilot when she grew up. Some did not realize the connection between traditional pilots and UAS pilots until talking with the ICON A5 Introduction to Flight Team.”

The new drone program at Laurel Ridge is set to begin this fall with classes starting on August 22. The event was an informative way to introduce the program as the school is trying to meet the demands of the rising industry.

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