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Drone pilot course leads students to high flying careers

For the ground-breaking and gravity defying students who are the first at South Metropolitan TAFE to undertake a drone flying qualification, the sky is the limit.

Thirty secondary school students spread across two classes are completing the inaugural SM TAFE AVI30419 Certificate III in Aviation (Remote Pilot) qualification.

The course, comprising 32 study days over 10 months, is the highest qualification available for secondary school students wanting to pursue a career in aviation and develop industry leading skills within the remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) industry. Those wishing to go on to obtain a Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) Remote Pilot Licence (RePL) can do so through SM TAFE’s partnership with Global Drone Solutions, which recognises our graduates as having completed part of their training toward their RePL .

Obtaining a RePL is the first step to being able to operate remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS), otherwise known as drones or UAV’s for commercial or business purposes. Students can progress to fly larger RPAS as they build their qualifications.

The certificate III equips students with the skills to command a sub two-kilogram drone aircraft, which lays the foundations for entrepreneurial endeavours such as filming for weddings, advertising purposes and other light commercial applications.

Lecturer Murray Terwey said the course provided skills that were an entry path into a multitude of industry sectors embracing drone technology, including mining, surveying, utilities, agriculture, media and aviation and a growing number of other industries.

“With a drone filming component in the course, students are able to move into careers in so many industries — light poles are inspected by remote piloted aircraft, crops are sprayed from them, they’re used by police, emergency services, surf lifesaving, real estate companies, you name it,” Mr Terwey said.

Students can use the qualification as a pathway into further studies at a certificate IV, diploma or advanced diploma level. Alternatively, they can explore certificate Ill qualifications in aviation, for example pilot studies, aviation management, flight attendant, helicopter and rescue crewman courses.

For 16-year-old VETDSS student Jamie Kilcoyne from Mandurah Catholic College, the course is an extension of his passion for the aviation sector. With his first solo light plane flight under his belt, Jamie is on his way to a pilot’s licence and sees the course as widening his employment options and aviation credentials.

“Half the course is theory and half practical, and it’s delivered so professionally, as well as being fun,” Jamie said.

Travelling from Mandurah to the Fremantle campus each week, Jamie embodies the mantra of lecturer Mr Terwey who says, “Your attitude determines your altitude.”

The course is currently available to secondary school students completing vocational education courses but planning is underway to make it available to the general public in 2022.