Sweetwater Union Adult Education Drone Program Flies in the Face of the Pandemic

The Sweetwater Union High School Adult Education program, located in San Diego County, is always looking for new and exciting curriculum offerings for their students that will provide them with valuable career opportunities.  Such was the case when Sweetwater District Adult Education Director, Dr. Ryan Burke, sought to bring in the Unmanned Safety Institute’s award-winning curriculum into his program.

Sweetwater UAS students Armando Garcia and Ellejon Hernandez perform flight training at the Silent Electric Flyers Club in Mission Bay.

Dr. Burke had identified Mary Alvarado, an experienced Adult Education teacher, to lead this program.  Both Dr. Burke and Ms. Alvarado recognized that unmanned aviation systems (UAS), commonly referred to as drones, was an industry ripe for explosive growth, creating a need for many qualified drone pilots, or “Remote Operators” as referred to by the FAA. Dr. Burke and Ms. Alvarado were very impressed with the fully turn-key curriculum solution offered by the Unmanned Safety Institute (USI).  Ms. Alvarado utilized the USI Instructor Training offering and became a USI Certified Instructor.  Dr. Burke stated, “USI’s program provided us with an ACE accredited curriculum supported by either printed or digital textbooks and workbooks, Certified Instructor Training, and online learning modules that were professionally designed and developed to maximize our student’s success”.

The original plan was to have Ms. Alvarado instruct the program at the Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD) facility in National City, CA and in the middle of the Spring 2020 semester, along came Covid-19 and all the disruptions brought on by this highly contagious pandemic.  Beginning in April 2020, Ms. Alvarado modified the delivery of the USI Safety Certificate, Level One course from on-site instruction to a hybrid model using the USI Learning Management System along with Zoom web-conferencing software to continue the program.  “I was immediately so impressed and proud of our 25 students for their willingness to accept these modifications, which was new and unfamiliar to almost all of them.  I credit the flexibility of the USI offering and could not be prouder of the commitment from our students and the excellent results they achieved via the completion of the program utilizing our hybrid approach to course delivery”, added Mary Alvarado.

So successful was the outcome of this offering, that many of the students went on to take and pass their FAA Part 107 Certification test, qualifying them to perform commercial drone operations within the FAA’s approved regulatory framework.  One of the students has accepted employment as a full-time UAS Remote Operator for a local company.