By Julee Cobb
Travis Balthazor, Kansas State Polytechnic’s UAS flight operations manager, prepares students for the written FAA exam during the program’s Part 107 training course.
Kansas State University’s Polytechnic Campus is expanding its unmanned aircraft systems program to now include a weeklong course centered on the Federal Aviation Administration’s new Part 107 regulations.
Designed to prepare professionals for remote pilot in command certification, Kansas State Polytechnic is offering a UAS commercial pilot training course from Monday, Oct. 17, through Friday, Oct. 21, focused on FAA guidelines proficiency, flight safety and development of standard operating procedures. The course was created in response to the recently instituted Part 107 rules for commercial use of small unmanned aircraft, specifically the required written FAA exam for anyone without a manned pilot certificate.
“Under the FAA’s Part 107 mandate, anyone who wants to fly for commercial operations without obtaining a manned certification must demonstrate, through a written test, the ability to safely conduct those operations; however, much of the material in the test is complex and covers topics those outside the aviation industry might not understand,” said Kurt Carraway, executive director of Kansas State Polytechnic’s UAS program. “We believe there is validity in offering a personalized experience where interested UAS operators can connect with our program experts and have their questions answered immediately. It is also a tremendous opportunity to answer questions about complex airspace and other subject matters that can be confusing to new aviators.”
During the first three days of the commercial pilot training course, students receive in-class instruction specifically on elements covered in the written FAA exam, such as different classes of airspace, meteorology, weather, UAS performance, loading and center of gravity, and Part 107 itself. On the fourth day, students will take the required exam in the campus’s FAA test center. The remaining day and a half is spent conducting flight training in one of the nation’s largest enclosed UAS flight facilities, which is on campus, and creating essential documents for safe operations, like standard operating procedures, a preflight checklist and flight logs. After students successfully complete the FAA exam and the course, they will receive a remote pilot in command, or RPIC, certificate from the FAA.
Spencer Schrader, right, a junior in the K-State Polytechnic UAS program, works with Wayne Scritchfield of Kirkham Michael on his piloting skills.
Kansas State Polytechnic launched its first commercial pilot training course on Aug. 30, the day Part 107 went into effect. Two employees of Kirkham Michael, a civil engineering firm based in Ellsworth, with offices throughout the state and in Nebraska and Iowa, attended the five-day course in preparation of their company using UAS technology for data collection, 3-D modeling and surveying crop health.
“This UAS course has prepared us to help Kirkham Michael become the frontrunners in our industry with new technology offerings,” said Wayne Scritchfield, a registered land surveyor with the company. “Along with studying for the exam and then becoming certified, we received valuable assistance with setting up standard operating procedures and flight logs, which the FAA wants to see from professionals utilizing unmanned aircraft in their work. I had also never flown before, so it was very beneficial to have personal instruction where I could work through any learning objectives.”
All of the participants expressed that the course is a convenient way to network with other individuals and companies looking to use UAS technology for a variety of applications, which could lead to future collaborations of resources.
Wayne Scritchfield, right, and Jerry Froese, top, both of Kirkham Michael, get hands-on UAS training in K-State Polytechnic’s netted flying pavilion.
The cost of the commercial pilot training course is $1,400 for individuals, with a discounted rate for companies sending multiple attendees. The cost of the FAA exam is an additional charge. More information on the course, including registration and travel arrangements, can be found at polytechnic.k-state.edu/profed/suas.
Kansas State Polytechnic received the country’s first Section 333 exemption for flight training in November 2015, allowing the UAS program to create and conduct an extensive flight training program for students and outside entities before the FAA-agreed upon Part 107. Along with the upcoming commercial pilot training course, Kansas State Polytechnic has been providing companies such as SkySkopes, an unmanned flight services company in North Dakota, with multirotor flight training; has been offering a UAS multirotor hobbyist course; and has implemented structured flight training curriculum for students in Kansas State Polytechnic’s UAS bachelor’s degree program.
To learn more about Kansas State Polytechnic’s UAS training offerings, including customizable courses, contact the campus’s professional education and outreach department at 785-826-2633 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To inquire about UAS research opportunities, contact Carraway at 785-826-2624 or email@example.com.