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New Tech Students Earn Drone Pilot Licenses

Belton New Tech @Waskow students Joshua Ely and Drew Leinart have a new piece of paper in their wallets.

The 17-year-olds recently passed the Federal Aviation Administration Part 107 exam, earning themselves commercial drone pilot licenses. 

It’s an accomplishment the upperclassmen were able to achieve thanks to unmanned flight classes New Tech started offering this fall. With 48 students in the drone program, they’re the first to earn the license.

“We are so proud of Joshua and Drew and their teacher, Matthew Mastrilli,” Stephanie Ferguson, director of career readiness, said. “They’ve put in the hard work to learn the necessary skills and the time to practice the craft. We hope this industry certification helps launch Joshua and Drew into their future careers.”

Mastrilli said the federal test covers a variety of topics, everything from airspace classification and operating requirements to weather, emergency procedures, radio communication, airport operations and maintenance and pre-flight inspections.

“A lot of the content exposes students to knowledge a pilot needs in order to share the skies with larger crafts,” he said. 

As part of the program, Ely and Leinart logged flight hours and cataloged their footage.

“These flights could range from cinematography to inspection and allow students to build portfolios to show specific work examples,” Mastrilli said. “There are so many opportunities for students to start working in the drone industry. The industry doesn’t care how old they are as long as they are certified. This class gives students real opportunities to start exploring this career field before they leave New Tech.”

Ely hopes to put his license to use right away by doing freelance work in the local area.

“I am passionate about video production, and I knew this was an opportunity that not a lot of other schools offer yet,” Ely said. “I like being able to create video and seeing what the world looks like from a bird’s eye view.”

Mastrilli is excited to expand industry partnerships that will benefit his students. 

“We have already begun making connections with realtors and content creators who want our students to handle all of their aerial photography needs,” he said. “Students can show their abilities with these flight plans.”

As the drone program’s inaugural year draws to a close this spring, Mastrilli expects more students to join next year as they realize the job potential it offers.

“My next goal for the students is to start partnering with state entities so we can assist in gathering visuals with the drones to gain infrastructure funding from federal infrastructure programs,” he said. “No joke — the sky is truly the limit.”

March 10, 2023