Watch CBS News

Suffolk County Aviation School Offering Drone Classes To Get Pilot's License

BROOKHAVEN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Dowling College's School of Aviation students now have a new way to take to the skies, with a new drone training program unveiled on Thursday.

The program is the first of its kind for the Long Island college, which is geared towards teaching aviation students how to properly maneuver one of the aviation industry's newest addition -- unmanned aircrafts, or drones.

The program debuted on Thursday, with a demonstration at Dowling's Drone Flight Lab at their campus in Brookhaven. 

Students are learning inside a mock air control tower about crowded airspace and drones being flown too close to airports.

"As a pilot, I understand the concept of airspace and how dangerous it can be for commercial airlines," Alex Hays of the aviation school told CBS2.

Nineteen-year-old Scott Keane quickly signed up, drawn by the powerful cameras that can be mounted on drones of any size.

"I'm actually a photographer myself. I find it really cool. We can use aerial shots, instead of going up in an airplane, we can just use a drone with a camera on top," Keane told told TV 10/55's Richard Rose.

School of Aviation leaders say the new industry is rapidly growing, allowing for a whole new set of career opportunities for aviation students.

"In the future, with commercial use of the drones, we're going to have to get them into the airspace and make them work in there along with the commercial airlines," Dowling College Professor Joe Donofrio told CBS2.

Careers in the drone industry can be lucrative too -- according to Dowling adjunct professor and commercial drone operator Jim Record, some drone-related career paths can lead to salaries of $100,000 or more in the first five years after graduation.

"Well I've always taken an interest in the drones and it's kind of interesting to know that we can make a career off of it and make money off of it," student Kyle Jennigen said.

The course is designed to teach students the basics of commercial drone applications, and will incorporate both classroom and hands-on training. The school is also attracting women.

"There's not a lot of female pilots, not a lot of females in the aviation industry, so it's a challenge," Kenika Bouchelle told WLNY.

Dowling Dean of Students Tom Daly believes that it's time to stop fearing drones and to start properly incorporating them into our lives, WCBS 880's Mike Xirinachs reported.

"The drones are here. So let's figure out how to work them into the system," Daly said.

Daly told CBS2's Cindy Hsu that the classes have been exploding in popularity.

"When we opened the class, we only expected 22. Then it went to 26, then 28 and now we have a waiting list," he said.

The school is not cheap, however. The pilot's school can cost up to $50,000, and that's on top of the yearly $30,000 tuition. Meanwhile, students say half of what they're learning is just plain fun.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.