EUGENE, Ore. -- The hum of a drone is becoming familiar to Sean Parish, the chief flight instructor at Lane Community College.
They look fun, but there are lots of challenges to consider when flying a drone professionally.
"Operating in the National Airspace System, avoiding obstacles, figuring out how to align the sensor, whether that be a camera or a thermal detector," Parish says.
He also says it's why LCC is piloting a new course: a two-year program dedicated to certifying students to fly drones commercially.
"We see that there's going to be a need for drones. Already, you see them being used for agriculture, commercial construction, search and rescue."
The field is certainly growing. The Federal Aviation Administration expects the number of drone pilots to increase from close to 75,000 in 2017 to over 420,000 by 2021, covering a wide range of fields.
"These are the types of occupations that we'd like to fill with a new technology that's sustainable and it's the coming thing for our country," says LCC's Dean of Advanced Technology, Pat O'Connor.
The full program puts drones and students up in the air, but if you don't have time for that, on the ground you can take a shorter course and get certified faster.
Specific training certifications in photography and mapping will also be offered soon. Those programs are cheaper and take less time.
For Parish, it's a new opportunity to get students in the field.
"I think what's exciting to me is that people can get into aviation," he says. "The barrier for entry into aviation is a lot lower now. We really want to give people that ability to go out and creatively solve problems as well as be safe and proficient pilots."
The new LCC program takes flight this fall with its first students.