COCC getting set to launch 'drone degree'

Classes in UAS operations coming in fall

POSTED: 4:49 PM PST February 14, 2014    UPDATED: 10:48 PM PST February 15, 2014 
COCC 'Done degree' image2
BEND, Ore. -

Drone fever: It's sweeping the nation --and thanks to an FAA-approved Warm Springs testing site, Central Oregon is one of the stars.

And Central Oregon Community College is ready for the take-off.

"This could be one of the next biggest opportunities for employment here in the in the future," COCC Aviation Program Coordinator Karl Baldessari said recently.

"It's called 'unmanned aerial systems operations," Baldessari said.

The new two-year degree program coming this fall that will combine a mix of traditional pilot training and new classes designed specifically for unmanned, remotely operated aircraft.

"The base of all our applications will be real-time commercial uses," Baldessari said.

It's an evolving that many industry aviation students are eager to join.

"There's a lot of growth potential in the UAV industry. You can assist manned aircraft, do search and rescue operations," said aviation student Tyler Leslie.

Baldessari said there are a number of commercial applications for UAVs in Central Oregon, including wildland firefighting and agriculture.

He said he hopes with the new degree and the Warm Springs testing site, the industry will snowball on the High Desert.

"Larger volume of jobs, more vehicles,  more manufacturing jobs," he said.

Now COCC's new degree is waiting for state approval, and the college is preparing for a new UAV simulation lab.

Baldessari is eager to bring something new to the Northwest.

"We may be leading the pack, at least here in our area," Baldessari said.

A leader with an edge, as that testing site coming to Warm Springs is one of a few in the nation.

"Our intent is to include actual launches and recoveries, and take our students out locally," Baldessari said.

Capitalizing on available resources and what could be the next wave of job growth on the High Desert.