Sunshine State Drone Expo shows students future careers | #schoolsaftey

TAMPA, Fla. — Azalea Middle School’s Civil Air Patrol Cadet Squadron is hosting the 3rd annual Sunshine State Drone Expo, highlighting drone safety and potential career paths for students.

What You Need To Know

  •  The 3rd annual Sunshine State Drone Expo is happening at Azalea Middle School on Saturday. 
  •  Azalea Middle offers a unique program for students to get their drone safety and flight certification. 
  •  More industries are beginning to incorporate drones in their everyday work, including law enforcement, local governments and retailers. 
  • The expo is free and open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Azalea’s Academy of Engineering offers a unique program for students to get their drone safety and flight certification. Owen Hurst, an 8th grade student, chose to attend Azalea Middle School specifically for the program.

When Hurst saw other students flying drones, he knew he wanted to give it a try.

“The hardest things to learn are to remember the rules and to remember the commands you have to call before you start flying,” Hurst said.

Capt. Willis Reese is Hurst’s instructor. Reese first started the drone program as an after-school club, but it quickly grew into something larger.

“People started saying ‘oh my gosh, this is really more than just a hobby,’” Reese said. “We were talking about careers and how this thing could really blossom into a six-digit income possibly for some of these kids.”

More industries are starting to incorporate drones into their everyday work, including law enforcement, local government and retailers. Eventually, Hurst intends to use his drone flying skills to launch a career in construction.

“Just go for it because it’s fun, it’s easy to learn,” he said. “It may seem hard at first but once you get it it’s just like a breeze.”

While Reese trains his students to use drones, his top priority is educating them about safety. Students will obtain an industry certification through the drone program, which Reese hopes will set them up for a successful future.

“A lot of jobs that you used to be able to get that were just simple stuff – like working for the zoning department – well now they may be looking for people that also have a drone license because they’re incorporating all of these things into their regular duties,” he explained.

The Sunshine State Drone Expo will feature drone racing and aerobatics. Participants will also be able to test out their own flying skills.

“I hope people learn new things and are able to get into drones themselves so we can extend the drone community,” Hurst said.

The event is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday at Azalea Middle School. It is free and open to the public.

Azalea’s Academy of Engineering, which includes the drone program, is a District Application Program. Interested students must apply between January 9-19, 2024 for the chance to enroll. Click here for more information.

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