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MSU Denver adds commercial drone piloting classes to help with an expanding need

The Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) classes are training students to help businesses who are looking for a new perspective.

DENVER — Metropolitan State University of Denver has added three primary Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) classes to its curriculum to help fill positions in the expanding commercial drone pilot industry. 

The UAS industry is desperately in search of new employees to work for businesses looking for a new perspective. The school has added the classes as part of the Aviation and Aerospace Science Department.

“There really isn’t a field out there that isn’t going to be impacted by automation today, tomorrow, or sometime in the future,” MSU Denver UAS instructor Richard Tharau said. “Being able to fly and capture that environment from the air is a big advantage in almost every industry.”

Credit: Byron Reed

The school said they started the classes in 2018 to prepare students with a foundation for career development in the commercial unmanned aerial systems industry as a 14 CFR Part 107 Remote Pilot.

“The idea behind the three primary courses is to have someone ready to go into the commercial field,” Tharau said. “The way I would like to see it is a student walking out of the classroom into a new job and being able to show their bosses something they didn’t know.”

Students like junior Joe Link, who is majoring in UAS. 

As part of his internship, he’s working as a certified commercial drone pilot for Angel Hawk, a local videography company that gives high school football coaches across the metro area a birds-eye view of their practices and games.

Credit: Angel Hawk

“It really helps out the coaches, because they get a different angle such as the cable camera at the NFL game,” Link said. “I wasn’t really ever interested in football until I started filming, but now it just seems like I can’t get my eyes off of the field. It's really helped me appreciate the usage that we can have with drones more.”

The three classes earn students 15 credit hours and hands-on experience.

Tharau, who also works for the Department of the Interior as a certified drone pilot, said he’s seeing more companies hiring certified commercial drone pilots to grab images not possible 10 years ago in industries like real estate, infrastructure inspections and agriculture.

Credit: Byron Reed

“The field is expanding very rapidly,” he said. “You also have all different types of people from all different types of industries that are recognizing the utility of UAS.”

Both agree the classes are getting more people interested in learning the technical skills of piloting a drone--and in a career that’s already taking off.

Credit: Byron Reed

“I feel really confident going into the workforce,” Link said. “There’s so many options that it's almost overwhelming to think about how many different jobs or careers that I could potentially be doing in the future.”

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