Elijah Gilbert’s laser-like gaze zeros in on a small wire atop his drone. Ron Poynter stands over Gilbert, offering direction on the construction of a drone that Poynter’s company, OnPoynt, created for camps such as Elizabeth City State University’s first-ever Drone Academy.

While Poynter works with Gilbert and his drone team members on the construction of their vehicle, a room full of high school students do likewise. All of them are preparing for the big Drone Academy competition to come later in the week.

The Drone Academy is ECSU’s first foray into a week-long residential program aimed at giving high school students firsthand experience with the increasingly popular technology. Dr. Kuldeep Rawat, ECSU’s dean of aviation science and technology, says it’s a chance for these 39 high school students from across the country to dive into the world of drone technology, discover the science behind them, and learn about the expansive career opportunities drone technology offers them.

“We are capitalizing on the excitement surrounding the drones and showing them that these are career opportunities, not just hobbies,” said Dr. Rawat. “And we are building a pipeline of future students.”

ECSU will be offering a bachelor’s degree in drone technology beginning this fall. These high school students, says Dr. Rawat, if they choose to pursue such a degree, will already have a solid foundation from which they can begin their degree work.

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Originally published July 10, 2019.