The drone pilots are coming

As unmanned aerial vehicles start crossing over from military to civilian use, Hinds Community College is starting Mississippi’s first program to train drone pilots and technicians.

“In the next two to five years this industry will explode,” said instructor/ consultant Dennis Lott. “There are so many opportunities that will be available, there will be more positions than pilots and technicians to fill them.”

Hinds will expand its pilot training program to include controlling unmanned vehicles and making repairs and upgrades.

Sean Meacham, 19, is an aviation student at HCC, as well as a crew chief for the Air Guard. Looking toward a career in the Air Force, he is taking the traditional pilot classes at HCC as well as the UAV classes this coming semester. He said he was interested in radio-controlled planes before he came to college, and still works with the five he has at home.

“I’m looking at this to be a backup,” he said. “So if something ever happens and I can no longer fly commercially or for the military, I have the knowledge I need to fly UAVs for a contractor. There’s no telling what all will be available in the future.”

Hinds’ aviation program has a simulator that  simulates a remote-control airplane. Students will start with flying small radio-controlled aircraft inside a hangar, then work their way up to larger aircraft.