Belton New Tech students Joshua Ely and Drew Leinart recently earned commercial drone pilot licenses after passing the Federal Aviation Administration Part 107 exam. The upperclassmen, who are 17 years old, are the first to earn the license as part of unmanned flight classes New Tech began offering this fall. With 48 students in the drone program, they are blazing the trail for others to earn their licenses in the future.
As part of the program, Ely and Leinart logged flight hours and captured footage for their portfolios, which can include anything from cinematography to inspection. They are now poised to explore job opportunities in the drone industry, which has a significant demand for certified pilots regardless of their age.
New Tech’s unmanned flight classes offer opportunities for students to gain knowledge about airspace classification, operating requirements, weather, emergency procedures, radio communication, airport operations, and maintenance and pre-flight inspections.
Ely is looking forward to putting his license to use right away by doing freelance work in the local area. “I am passionate about video production, and I knew this was an opportunity that not a lot of other schools offer yet,” Ely said. “I like being able to create video and seeing what the world looks like from a bird’s eye view.”
Matthew Mastrilli, the teacher of the drone program, is excited about expanding industry partnerships that will benefit his students. He has already begun connecting with realtors and content creators who want his students to handle their aerial photography needs.
As the inaugural year of the drone program comes to a close, Mastrilli expects more students to join next year as they realize the job potential it offers. “My next goal for the students is to start partnering with state entities so we can assist in gathering visuals with the drones to gain infrastructure funding from federal infrastructure programs,” he said. “No joke — the sky is truly the limit.”