New courses taking drone training to new heights

03.07.2018 | By Jeannie Peng Mansyur

Drones, they’ve played a secret weapon in military defense and were recently used to maneuver around hard-to-reach areas to find people during Hurricane Harvey. In recognizing the increased need for drones in the public and private sectors, San Jacinto College will offer small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) drone flight training classes this spring. 

“Technology advances change, and the commercial and industrial uses for drone technology are evolving,” said Dr. Allatia Harris, vice chancellor of strategic initiatives, workforce, community and diversity at San Jacinto College. “One lesson learned from Hurricane Harvey was that drones could be used to inspect the conditions at petrochemical plant sites during the immediate aftermath of the flooding when employee access to the site was limited by high water or by safety concerns. The professional use of drones requires a refined skillset, and we are rapidly discovering new ways to use drone technology to grow or improve business operations.” 

The classes, set to begin later this spring, will include how to safely fly a drone with 18 contact hours and how to prepare for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification exam for small unmanned aircraft systems. The classes will be taught by David Robichaux, a pilot and retired air traffic controller with the FAA.

Very few places in the country are offering this type of training, according to Dr. Janis Fowler, director of the San Jacinto College Aerospace Academy.

“Drones can be challenging to fly,” said Fowler, adding that one of the largest industries using drones right now is real estate. The agriculture industry is also using drones to map fields using sensors to detect crops with disease and drought. “If you’re going to invest in a drone, you must know the restrictions about its use in an urban area.”

Class participants will receive a drone, simulator, and a workbook. For more information, email

About San Jacinto College

Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, since 1961. As a fiscally sound institution, the College currently holds bond ratings of AA and Aa2 by Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s, respectively. San Jacinto College is a 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence Rising Star Award recipient and an Achieving the Dream Leader College. Approximately 45,000 credit and non-credit students each year benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success. The College offers eight areas of study that prepare a diverse body of students to transfer to four-year colleges or universities or enter the workforce with the skills needed to support the growing industries along the Texas Gulf Coast. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce.

For more information about San Jacinto College call 281-998-6150, visit or join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.