Serving Midwest Aviation Since 1960

Teaching UAS from the ground up

Northland Aerospace applies hands on approach to unmanned aircraft systems instruction

Twenty area students learned a whole lot more than just how to fly unmanned aircraft systems during Summer Camp at the Northland Aerospace campus in Thief River Falls.

"They got everything from lab activities dealing with aircraft electronics to advance composite structures," said Northland Aerospace UAS Instructor and Program Manager, Jon Beck. "They actually got to go through and make parts for a multi-rotor UAS."

The August 5-6 Summer Camp was hosted by Northland Community Technical College Aerospace in conjunction with the North Valley Career and Technology Center out of Grafton North Dakota, and the Pine to Prairie Cooperative Center in Red Lake Falls, a consortium of high schools in northwest Minnesota.

Students were guided through mission planning, viewing of VFR sectionals, and conversations about air space factors affecting flight. They learned about imagery analysis, and how to utilize digital imagery in precision agriculture and the development of farm management practices.

Then they got to go out and actually fly.

"They had a great time," said Beck. "Students got to see a lot of different control interfaces for unmanned aircraft systems, particularly for some of the more predominant multi-rotor systems that are out there in the industry today for small UAS."

Conversations were also held about how small UAS may be used as a tool in a variety of career fields aside from agriculture including cinematography, real estate, oil and gas, and power line inspection. There was no discussion on whether UAS are here to stay. Their existence and use was assumed.

As a point of fact, Beck noted that the Federal Aviation Administration website has been updated and expanded for unmanned air systems technology and the regulations that govern it. It also guides readers through the process of requesting an exemption for commercial users.

"They've done a nice job with that," said Beck. "You can see the speed of approvals has definitely picked up. There are over 1,000 exemptions that have been granted to date. I think the granting of those exemptions is leading to pretty neat applications out in the industry."

Beck said the FAA is also focused on addressing issues arising from users of UAS technology who aren't implementing proper safety procedures and are causing a hazard.

"I think those are individuals who are not really taking safety into account, don't have any type of aeronautical background, or even understand the implications for their actions," said Beck.

As program manager and UAS instructor at NCTC, Jon Beck feels the most fundamental way to overcome the dangers of new technology is to teach how to use it responsibly. That's what Summer Camp is all about.

"It was an absolutely amazing success!" said Beck, "These students come from a generation that is deeply involved in technology in their daily lives, but to actually generate talk about how unmanned aircraft systems are being utilized today, and how they will be utilized in the future, I think was a pretty neat experience for them.

"Students got to see a lot of different control interfaces for unmanned aircraft systems, and I think they got a much better understanding about how those aircraft are controlled."

For more information about Summer Camp or the Northland Aerospace program, visit


Reader Comments(0)