Our Curriculum Starts With Aviation 101


Coastal Drone Academy students map coastal towns, forests, wetlands, bays, and beaches. In Spring 2018 we went aboard the OSU R/V Pacific Storm on station five miles off Newport, deploying a drone to help Dr. Leigh Torres at Oregon State monitor grey whale migration as part of our OSU/Sea Grant Grey Whale Migration Mission (click here for our story).

Our curriculum is a blend of aviation and coastal resources management and has two texts. The aviation text is written by Embry-Riddle aviation faculty, and the curriculum is FAA approved and provides students with over a dozen college credits (below).


My four (blended aviation and natural resource management) courses are:

  • Aviation 101.1: Introduction & Drone Safety
  • Aviation 101.2: Phantom Film School
  • Aviation 102: Coastal Drone Mapping (Operations) (see details)
  • Aviation 103: Natural Resource Management Using Drones (Missions) (see details)

The second text is my book, “Coastal Resources Management Guidelines”, (below) which is our text used in coastal zone management, concepts introduced in Aviation 102 and 103.

  • Snedaker & Getter

My courses are part of the State of Oregon’s Career and Technical Education program, and they are designed to work through experiential, hands-on learning, and collaboration with local marine scientists, my pilots fly missions where they develop knowledge of the several key aspects of coastal resource management.

Here is an example of technical education using research projects as we learn salt marsh ecology, , surveying, boating, fixed wing drone flying, and seagrass ecology (below) in the Spring of 2018 with our entire Operations and Missions classes having a role (this is the bay and the boat where we flew the ODFW Netarts Bay UAS 2018 Mission):


Coastal Drone Missions (AV 103)

Throughout Spring 2018 ten of our student pilots, four of our instructors, and six technicians from our collaborators together carry out our Netarts Bay Seagrass Mapping Mission. It culminated in three days of flying together, producing over 25,000 images, and beginning a summer of analysis by “Einstein” (our supercomputer).

Tony, Dave, Jason and Chuck with eBee + RTK on maiden flight
eBee RTK inaugural flight with Tony, Dave, Jason and me

This course helps student pilots fill their log book with commercial flight time doing significant projects for our collaborators, including megafaunal (salmon and whale) surveying, and coastal (beach, shore, bay, marsh, forest, and city) mapping.

With continuous missions (we are booked out several months) student mastery results in application for Drone PRO™ which may increase with hours and years flown:


The emphasis of Advance Missions is to complete the USI Safety Course, complete a USI Drone Pro rating on the student’s fleet of Phantom drones, and pass the FAA 107 test. Our goal is to fly fifty (50) hours during the year, especially during the summer.

summer camp


Our mission pilots do useful work while training, and before flying they are visual observers, data managers, and/or battery technicians.

All classroom, field training and deployment are carried out while working for our dozen or so collaborators, including:


Missions has another 100 hours of ground school focussing on the following modules:

  • Ground school (Part 107 and USI Safety)
    • Regulations
    • Operations in the national airspace
    • Human factors
    • Crew resource management
    • Aeronautical decision making
    • Safety policy
    • Risk management
    • Safety assurance
    • Safety promotion

Coastal Drone Operations (AV 102)

Before being admitted to Coastal Drone Operations (AV 102), students must complete Introduction to Unmanned Aerial Systems (AV 101) which requires 50-100 hours of ground school and flight arena training using a trainer drone assigned to each student (below is our indoor flight facility at the Oregon National Guard armory and the Hubsan X4 Spider).

In addition, each pilot is required to complete a Red Cross/CPR course. Students are recommended to have 20/40 corrected vision, be physically fit, in academic good-standing, and express a desire to advance in the aviation field of endeavor (expressing advancing levels of work ethic and maturity) to advance to operations. Below is the curriculum of AV 101.2.

  • Phantom Film School
    • Phantom and Mavic editing school
    • How to tell aerial stories
    • Killer shots & 360 panoramas
    • Stunning aerial videography and photography
    • Start an aerial photography drone business

Field trips are taken to an airport, a flight museum, and a flight service center.

Operations students are required to join our nationally sanctioned (Academy of Model Aeronautics) flight club, the “Coastal Dragon Drones” to promote drone flying activities and activities within the school and community.

Students in Aviation 102 first learn to fly a quadcopter used to create photo mosaics, topographic, vegetation, and 3D aerial maps while following lesson plans in radio communications, performance, physiological factors, decision making, airport operations, maintenance and pre-flight procedures. In addition students experience flying a fixed wing drone over larger areas (below is a sample plan for a flight to map a large seagrass bed (shown in a dark green).

Students test and gain the following areas of proficiency in operations.

  • Ground school (Part 107 and USI Safety)
    • Foundations of unmanned aircraft
    • Robotic aircraft
    • Datalinks
    • Control stations
    • Payloads
    • Applications of unmanned aircraft
    • Elements of UAS applications
    • Professionalism
  • Map Making
    • Drone Deploy and Pix4DMapperKeene Peninsula v2
  • Part 107 Test Preparation (Passing not required to pass, but this or USI Safety certification is required to advance to participate in a team during Missions (AV 103))
    • ASA knowledge testing workbook