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Frontier School Division
News Item

Northern Manitoba drone program setting a new standard

June 11, 2021

Sam Lucas Malcolm Certificates (unedited).JPG
Two FSD students are among few to obtain drone pilot certification

Two high school students from Frontier School Division's Leaf Rapids Education Centre (LREC) have accomplished the tremendous task of acquiring their RPAS pilot certificates from Transport Canada.

Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), more commonly referred to as “drones," have become incredibly valuable resources with nearly limitless industrial applications, and can provide northern and remote communities with potentially life-saving resources that were unheard of a decade ago. 

It is a complex and onerous process to obtain one's certification to operate an RPAS from Transport Canada, the governing authority overseeing drone certification in Canada. “Pilots are required to demonstrate a deep understanding of aviation knowledge that is tested thoroughly on the government exam," says Matthew Johnson, a former high school mathematics teacher and Vice President of Training at Volatus Aerospace in Winnipeg.

Lucas Lussier and Samantha Glenday completed their Basic RPAS pilot certification exams in March of this year, after having completed an optional credit program at LREC in partnership with Volatus Aerospace. Each student  was recognized by their school by receiving their “Frontier Wings" award on June 9th.

“The hardest part was studying for the Transport Canada test," said Lucas Lussier, 17.  

“It was hard. The test was hard," Glenday, 16, said. But when asked if she would recommend the program for other students, she said, “Do it! It's fun."

The teacher who led them through the program was Malcolm Hayter, who also completed the training in 2019. Hayter agreed that the course was not easy. “The book work side can be a bit challenging at times, but I think the flying makes up for that," Hayter said. He does believe the licenses will have a positive impact on the students' future: “Knowing how to fly, even at a basic level, gives these young people a leg up. Having basic skills and a passion for flying will open up many opportunities for them in the not-too-distant future."

Lussier agreed, stating that, "Doing this it will provide me with better options for my future." He is considering a career in aeronautics.

The Drones In The Classroom program has been offered by Volatus Aerospace across the Prairies since 2018, helping teachers learn the ropes about drone industry operations. “Frontier School Division has become a Canadian leader in drone education" says Johnson, who has trained over 20 teachers across the division to date. Johnson added that “it is extremely impressive to see high school students receiving their pilot certifications.  Frontier is paving a future with opportunities for these students!"

Elizabeth V. Peltz, who works as an administrative assistant at Transport Canada's Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) Task Force says that "they should be very proud of their accomplishment!" According to Transport Canada, only 1.6% of licensed drone pilots in Canada are 18 and under.

"There are currently 32 students between the ages of 14-18 that have their basic RPAS certificate in Manitoba..." Peltz said, adding that “Lucas and Samantha are included in these numbers."

Arif Kassum, Science Instructional Coach with Frontier School Division, launched the division-wide drone program to have teachers certified and outfitted with state-of-the-art hardware. “This is a milestone. This is precisely what the program was meant to achieve," said Kassum. "The new licenses expand their options for potential careers as RPAS pilots in aviation, aerospace, and science and engineering. We are thrilled to see them come so far."​