Students to get hands-on training in drone technology


Ann Zaniewski, Detroit Free Press

A California-based nonprofit is planning to invest up to $1 million to bring a high-tech learning lab to the Coleman A. Young International Airport, where Detroit students and the public can get hands-on training in the hot field of drone technology.

The funding from Base 11 will renovate two hangar bays and outfit them with state-of-the-art equipment under a multiyear lease with the city.

Students from one high school in the Detroit Public Schools district will be able to take classes there, officials said. Base 11’s for-profit subsidy will also operate a business focused on unmanned aerial systems.

Details are still being finalized, but a launch is expected this fall.

The project comes amid rapid growth in the drone industry and calls from state officials for a stronger emphasis on career technical training in Michigan.

“It’s not just benefiting students. We’re creating the workforce of the future,” said Kevin Smith, former chief of staff to the emergency manager of DPS.

The program will initially involve students from Davis Aerospace Technical High School. The school once had a robust aviation maintenance program, but it lost its federal certification last year after a controversial relocation resulted in missing curriculum and supplies.

Base 11 has pledged to help the school get re-certified. It has also agreed to provide at least 100 Davis students with for-credit online and hands-on courses in drone flight and maintenance, as well as entrepreneurship in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.

Officials are developing a curriculum adapted from the courses Base 11 will offer this fall at a community college in California. They plan to seek approval from the Michigan Department of Education this summer.

The ultimate goal is to create a dual-enrollment program with a local college.

Meanwhile, Base 11’s for-profit subsidiary, called the Aerodrome, will operate out of the hangar, offering drone-related training to anyone who might find the devices useful, from firefighters and farmers to college professors and hobbyists. Costs will range from $2,000 per class to up to $14,000 for a full compliment of courses.

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