Brandon University Offers Drone Course

A quadcopter drone in flight. (Doodybutch/Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA 4.0)

Brandon University’s Geography department is set to offer a course this semester that will not only give students university credit, but prepare them to fly unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or “drones”) amid proposed tighter regulations by Transport Canada.

The course, 38:398 Applied Topics in Geography: UAV Ground School, is open to students of Brandon University as well as the general public, though non-BU students will pay approximately $600 to take the course instead of the regular tuition fee that BU students will pay. It also has no prerequisites, despite being a third-year course.

The course is one of the first, from a university or otherwise, to provide training that, by proposed Transport Canada legislation, will be required for users of drones, but will also provide university credit.

In a press release, BU professor Dr. Dion Wiseman said, “Drones have become a vital tool for collecting aerial photography used to generate land cover maps and create 3D models of the natural terrain and built landscape. They are used extensively across a variety of traditional academic disciplines including archaeology, environmental science, biology, geography, and geology; as well as in numerous applied fields such as architecture, civil engineering, surveying, and many more.”

Matthew Johnson, owner of M3 Aerial Productions and instructor for the course, also said, “There’s already a shortage of qualified drone pilots, and now with just one course you can tap into a whole new industry.”

The course will be fully available online, being split into two parts: a self-directed study that must be completed by November 17th, and a series of three sessions (November 18th, November 25th, December 2nd) that can be attended either in-class or online via videoconference. The course, being entirely ground school-based, involves no actual flying.

Currently, Section 602.41 of the Canadian Aviation Regulations stipulates, applying to non-recreational use of drones, that “No person shall operate an unmanned air vehicle in flight except in accordance with a special flight operations certificate or an air operator certificate.”

Meanwhile, recreational users of drones must follow a set of rules laid out in the Interim Order No. 8 Respecting the Use of Model Aircraft, including not flying above 300 feet above ground level or within a certain distance of an airport.