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Augusta, Maine – Is Maine poised to become the training hub for an ever expanding $82 billion industry with business, first responder, and military applications?
It will when plans unfolding at the University of Maine at Augusta (UMA) take shape. The first step is already in place.
President James F. Conneely and officials in the Aviation program have announced that in October, UMA will be the first institution of higher learning in Maine to offer an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) or “drone” course. Scheduled to begin on October 27 at the Augusta campus, the 7 week intensive UAV course will offer a path for individuals to seek an FAA remote pilot’s license. Registration information is available online at www.uma.edu or call 1-877-UMA-1234.
The non-credit course will serve both licensed pilots and non-pilots alike, with enrollment open to the general public. Planning is underway for the UMA Aviation program to offer a comprehensive series of UAV courses, preparing graduates to successfully sit for the FAA exams required to work as a professional UAV pilot. Starting salaries for pilots holding commercial FAA licenses and this remote pilot certificate can exceed $100K-a-year.
“There is a strong job market for licensed UAV pilots,” noted Conneely, a pilot himself. “Serving the need to train UAV pilots will most certainly lead to economic growth for the state of Maine, attracting business investment or sparking development.”
“Applications for UAV’s are varied and growing,” noted Tom Abbott, Project Manager for the Small UAV Pilot Training Center at UMA. These include business applications such as using UAV’s to conduct engineering inspections; monitoring power transmission lines and pipelines; examining crop health in the forests of Maine using infrared technology; and Search and Rescue applications, among many other uses.
Conneely and Abbott believe that UMA is uniquely well-positioned to expand its Aviation program to incorporate UAV training as a fourth-year option in the Bachelor’s in Aviation degree program.
Civil Air Patrol Colonel Dan Leclair, an Instructor in the program and Northeast Regional Commander for the Civil Air Patrol, has been involved with national level UAV training programs for the past 3-years and is an integral part of this new program. UMA officials are optimistic that with the right kinds of support, possibly including public and private partnerships, that UMA could become a UAV training hub serving a national market.
“Maine is projected to achieve 5% of the national UAV market,” Abbott said. “We think that we can do significantly better than that.”