North Carolina High Schools Launch Innovative Drone Career Pathway

According to a recent report from the Winston-Salem Journal, fourteen high schools in 's Triad and northwest regions are set to participate in a groundbreaking drone career pathway initiative. This program, slated to begin in the 2024-25 school year, is the result of a partnership between the N.C. Department of Public Instruction and , the world's largest autonomous delivery service.

Preparing Students for the Drone Industry

The initiative aims to equip students with the skills needed for the rapidly expanding drone sector. Trey Michael, the department's director of Career and Technical (CTE), emphasized the program's goal:

“This partnership prepares students for a viable career after graduation in a field that is rapidly expanding globally.”

Participating schools will offer courses as part of their CTE curriculum. Students will study:

  • Drone fundamentals
  • requirements
  • Simulations
  • Drone flight training
  • Mapping

Upon successful completion of the program and meeting certain requirements, graduates are guaranteed an interview with drone delivery startup Zipline.

Schools and Community Response

The participating schools include the Career Center and Carver in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, along with institutions in Wilkes, Guilford, Watauga, Surry, Rockingham, and Randolph counties.

Carver principal Thyais Maxwell shared her excitement about the program:

“It has been truly amazing to see the excitement of our children of all ages and abilities to engage with the drone program. Even when we have to duck due to them flying drones in the halls.”

Industry Demand and Career Opportunities

Joseph Marshall, director of Flight Operations at Zipline, highlighted the program's potential:

“We are confident that the pathway program will attract exceptional candidates and contribute to the advancement of the UAS industry.”

The initiative responds to the increasing demand for skilled Uncrewed Aerial Systems (UAS) operators and flight operations professionals.

Regulatory Changes Supporting Growth

In a move supporting the 's growth, North Carolina recently repealed its drone operator knowledge test and permit requirement, effective December 1, 2024. This change aligns the state with federal regulations, relying on the FAA's Remote Pilot certificate program.

DroneXL's Take

This innovative program in North Carolina represents a significant step forward in preparing the next generation of drone professionals. By integrating drone technology into high school curricula, students gain early exposure to this rapidly growing field, potentially accelerating the industry's development.

The partnership between educational institutions and industry leaders like Zipline demonstrates a commitment to bridging the gap between education and real-world applications. This approach not only benefits students but also supports the drone industry's need for skilled professionals.

As we've seen in recent DroneXL coverage of similar programs, integrating drones and robotics into high school education is a growing trend. These initiatives are crucial for preparing students for the tech-driven jobs of the future and fostering innovation in the drone sector.

Moreover, the regulatory changes in North Carolina, such as the repeal of the state-specific drone permit, align with the industry's need for streamlined regulations. This change, coupled with educational programs, positions North Carolina as a potential leader in drone technology and education.

As the drone industry continues to evolve, programs like this will be essential in creating a skilled workforce ready to tackle the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow's drone-enabled world.

Photo courtesy of Winston-Salem Journal / Richard Craver.

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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ or @hayekesteloo.

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