Drone technology program planned for Rugby High next year | News, Sports, Jobs


Sue Sitter/PCT Students in Linda Burbidge’s Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems program at Dakota College in Bottineau work repairing drones.

Students at Rugby High School will have the chance to develop technology skills and earn college credit starting in the 2023-2024 school year through a dual-credit drone program offered by Dakota College in Bottineau.

The course receives funding from a grant supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Secondary Education, Two-Year Post-Secondary Education, and Agriculture under the Program K-12 Classroom Challenge Grants.

The program also uses support and guidance from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

“We are part of this membership of schools called UASCTI,” said Linda Burbidge, who chairs the small unmanned aircraft systems program at DCB.

“It’s the college training initiative. So the FAA recognizes that there will be a huge need for drone pilots, so we have a meeting every three months. said Burbidge. “We’ll meet other two-year schools offering similar programs and talk about what worked well.”

“We will be offering some of our core drone classes through online double credit,” Burbidge added. “We can learn a lot by talking in class or doing certain things online and virtually, but the practical part, like working on the drones and flying the drones, has to be done in every high school.”

“So under this grant, we wrote money to train an instructor in each of the high schools,” she added. “I will train them to be a licensed drone pilot and they can take their students and run a lab in each of their classes.”

“That way they can fly at their school and hopefully do fun things in their communities with it,” she says.

“Here on campus, we’ve done some great things with drones. We work with the school all the time. We take photos of the campus by drone and send them to our photography and marketing departments,” Burbidge noted. “So this is a very good opportunity.”

“Younger students become aware” she says of the technology.

Burbidge said the courses offered to high school students would focus on the basics of drone operation and maintenance. Students will also learn about their uses in agriculture.

In Burbidge’s classroom at DCB, students learn how to operate and maintain drones. They prepare for the unmanned aircraft pilot exams, which they take with the FAA.

Some of his students are from Canada, and they are preparing to take a similar test that would allow them to operate drones in their country.

Student Leighton Holstein, a Manitoban, worked to repair a drone in the classroom one morning in late October. “For our work, we use drones for crop tracking in agronomy”, he said.

“Right now (agricultural applications) are really our focus,” said Burbidge. We will have three core courses plus a flight lab. But, the three courses could be something like this where we talk about basic drone topics, like what they are used for, care and maintenance, safe flying, and things like that.

“We plan to start next school year,” she added. “That’s our goal. So right now I’m just working on developing the program and making sure it would translate well into an online format, because that’s how we’re going to do the main core of the learning, and we are going to plan the training of instructors in each secondary school.

At Rugby High, Superintendent Mike McNeff said: “We hope to have something in place by next fall.”

“It looks really exciting” Jared Blikre, manager of Rugby High, said of the scheme. “They have good equipment and it would be pretty cool for our kids to use it.”

McNeff and Blikre said math instructor Dan Seykora expressed interest in teaching the lab portion of the drone course.

“We are targeting five to 10 children for the course,” McNeff said.

“The logistics are hard to tell for the size of the class,” notes Blikre. “It depends on the equipment we get and, of course, it has to adapt to the schedules.”

“But, we’re really excited about it,” McNeff said.


Ryan H. Bowman