Northwestern Michigan College unmanned aircraft program lends students unique opportunities

A group of Northwestern Michigan College students and instructors pose with the program's fixed-wing drones. (Photo: Northwestern Michigan College)The U.S. government isn’t expected to open airspace for civilian unmanned drone flight until 2015.

But Northwestern Michigan College students can fly drones today.

The Traverse City college is the only school in the Great Lakes region and one of a handful in the nation with federal approval to teach courses on unmanned aerial vehicles, more commonly known as drones. The college  teaches  U.S. drone law, drone technology and how to  operate the school’s unmanned fixed-wing airplanes and quadcopters – helicopter-like unmanned aircraft with four rotors.

It also has a certificate of authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which permits the college and its students to research and conduct unmanned, outdoor flight with a number of remote control aircraft.

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