Introduction- Marine Studies using Remotely Piloted Aircraft (Scroll Down for Details)


Coastal Drone Academy is a Science, Technical, Engineering, and Math (STEM) extension program within Career Technical Charter High School in Lincoln City. Community Services Consortium (CSC) is the parent organization of Career Tech High School – that is, they hold the charter granted by the Lincoln County School District. CSC is a community action agency and has as its mission; “In partnership with a caring community, we help people in Linn, Benton and Lincoln counties to access tools and resources to overcome poverty and build brighter and more stable futures.”
coastal drone academy by the numbers

Coastal Drone Academy students map coastal towns, forests, wetlands, bays, and beaches. They census megafauna such as salmon and whales. In Spring 2018 we boarded 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 the 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, written by Embry-Riddle aviation faculty, uses curriculum that is FAA approved and provides students with over a dozen college credits. The second text is “Coastal Resources Management Guidelines” that was written for the National Park Service. I use these to teach three (blended aviation and marine studies) courses which are:

  • MSURPA 101:  Introduction to Marine Studies using RPA (Remotely Piloted Aircraft)
  • MSURPA 102: Marine Studies using RPA Operations (see details)
  • MSURPA 103: Marine Studies RPA using Missions (see details)

These 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  several key aspects of coastal resource management.books

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 (pictured is the bay and the boat where we flew the ODFW Netarts Bay UAS 2018 Mission) to make maps of coastal vegetation there:



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In our collaborator’s words, “This is a great opportunity for Career Tech students to pilot these types of UAS that should make them more competitive in the job market when they graduate. For ODFW, this provides a great opportunity for us to work with you and your students to explore the application and utility of fixed wing UAS relative to the quad-copters we currently use and provide your students with a real world application ofUAS technology for management of natural resources.” …Tony D. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.


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Missions- Marine Studies using RPA

Throughout Spring 2018, ten of our student pilots, four of our instructors, and six technicians from our collaborators together completed the 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).

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 Marine Studies RPA Missions is to complete the USI Safety Course and passing the FAA 107 test and gain college credit

In the words of our collaborator, “…as the Restoration Specialist, I would be available to provide educational opportunities to your students in the classroom or in the field. I could convey how the UAS work relates to the on the ground goals of clean, abundant water, increased salmon productivity and a holistic, whole watershed approach to restoration. I see this opportunity for collaboration as a win-win from all sides.” Evan H. of a local NGO (non governmental organization.mwcPowered by:

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Operations- Marine Studies using RPA

Before being admitted to Operations, students must complete Introduction 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 (below left).


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, matt with repairsand express a desire to advance in the aviation field of endeavor (expressing advancing levels of work ethic and maturity) to advance to operations.  Field trips are taken to an airport, a flight museum, and a flight service center. l skyping with classOperations students are required to join our nationally sanctioned (Academy of Model Aeronautics) flight club, the “Coastal Drones” to promote drone flying activities and activities within the school and community.

Students in Operations first learn to fly a quadcopter used to create photo mosaics, felicia and faith preflightkyle with compuer and p34Ktopographic, 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 the words on our collaborators, “Chuck is doing AMAZING things in Oregon with his students. They are applying DJI systems for marine science applications. Some of his students have already earned their RPC and are now interested in a career in aviation. Others are beginning to discover the power of drone technology and are looking to even start their own businesses! And best of all, attendance rates have gone from very low to nearly 100% ever since Chuck initiated his program! The story of the Coastal Drone Academy is truly wonderful and is having an immense positive impact on both the students and the community.” …a nationally accredited curriculum developer.

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