HARLINGEN — It looks like a mosquito hovering in the sky, but it’s providing a unique birds-eye view of the world below.
Drones are gaining in popularity not only as recreation but also for use in numerous professions.
That’s why three graduates of the Harlingen school district just became certified by the Federal Aviation Administration to operate the airborne device.
“I decided to get drone certified because I would watch movies and see the amazing shots that they’d have,” said Alexandria Ramirez, 18, who just graduated from Harlingen High School South.
She was operating the drone along with Zimri Martinez, 18, who’d also just received his certification.
“It would just fascinate me how pretty it looked and the shots you were able to get with it,” she said. “That’s why I wanted to learn how to do it and have my own drone and make my own videos.”
She’s also making videos for someone else.
The use of drones to take aerial videos is becoming popular for strong professional applications.
Alexandria is in an organization called Upward Bound, which often takes field trips. When she told the organization she was drone certified, she was asked to make aerial videos of the group’s activities, and of course she said yes.
“I think that’s a great opportunity,” she said. “It already opened some doors, so I think that’s great.”
Drones are indeed a good career move for numerous professions, said Raul Alvarez, director of career and technology education for the Harlingen school district.
“Drone is an innovative market right now and it’s expanding in multi-faceted fields,” he said.
He said Shane Strubhart, spokesperson for the district, pushed the program through the Media Arts and Communications Academy as a useful tool for their film productions.
“When they start doing film and they start doing advertisements and video, that’s where the drone comes into play,” Alvarez said. “But the market is vast. It’s in agriculture, it’s in business, it’s in marketing. Drone is one of those skills or abilities that make students more marketable in almost any field of study they go into.”
That’s how Zimri sees it, too.
“I think a drone is good for any kind of business,” said Zimri, who just graduated from Harlingen South.
“Since I was little I liked helicopters,” he said. “I used to have those little ones and then one day I wanted to use an actual drone and take video. That’s what I’d like to do.”
He said the FAA certification test was hard, and Alvarez confirmed it is a grueling exam.
“Some of those things they learned were flight restrictions,” he said. “You have to understand the effects of weather and aviation and on small unmanned aircraft. They have to understand emergency procedures. They have to understand radio communication procedures, aeronautical decision making.”
To illustrate, he pointed out the challenges of filming with a drone over a football stadium.
“They have to understand the weather and the effect that’s going to have on the drone,” he said. “You’d hate for it to go into traffic or go into an audience. So there are a lot of logistics they have to take into consideration.”
To become a first-time drone pilot you must:
• Be at least 16 years old
• Be able to read, speak, write and understand English
• Be in a physical and mental condition to safely fly a drone
• Pass the initial aeronautical knowledge exam
Drone pilot certificate:
• Valid for 2 years. Certificate holders must pass a recurrent knowledge test every two years.
Aeronautical knowledge test topics include:
• Aviation weather sources and effects of weather on small unmanned aircraft performance
• Small unmanned aircraft loading and performance
• Emergency procedures
• Radio communication procedures
• Aeronautical decision-making and judgment
• Airport operations
• Maintenance and preflight inspection procedures
For more info: www.faa.gov/uas/commercial_operators/become_a_drone_pilot