September 27, 2016

SIU to offer drone certification course

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A two-day course at Southern Illinois University Carbondale in November will allow drone operators to gain Federal Aviation Administration certification to operate unmanned aircraft systems. 

The course is from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Nov. 12-13, at the Transportation Education Center at the Southern Illinois Airport. The registration deadline is Nov. 4. Registration is $500 and covers the certification course, FAA knowledge test, and lunch. Registration options are available at

FAA regulations require certification for drone operators if they will operate drones under commercial guidelines for businesses and surveying, Michael F. Robertson, associate professor in Aviation Management and Flight, said.  The course will cover all of the different subject areas on the test. 

“More of the public is getting into drone use and we believed we could offer a course to help certify them,” Robertson said. “ 

Reports last week were that in the nine months since the FAA created the drone registration system, more than 550,000 unmanned aircraft have been registered with the agency. The FAA began issuing drone pilot licenses to commercial operators in August; nearly 14,000 people have applied to take the exam, with more than 5,000 people passing it.  Reports are the FAA forecasts there will be more than 1.3 million licensed drone pilots by 2020. 

Robertson said there is also a safety concern for pilots; a drone was recently operating close to restricted flight areas near the airport, Robertson said. 

“We are starting to see more use of drones so it is helpful to have more public education,” he said. “People are operating drones and may have no idea what type of airspace they are operating in.” 

The course is a great way for the university to engage with the community and serve students who might be interested in certification. The course could also be a step in developing an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) curriculum, Robertson said. 

Course instructors are Robertson, Steven Goetz and Bryan Harrison, assistant professors in aviation management and flight; Harry Fanning, lecturer and Charles Rodriguez, visiting lecturer, aviation technologies; and John K. Bro, flight instructor. 

For more information, contact Goetz at or Sarah VanVooren in Conference and Scheduling at 453-3472 or