This year, the New South Wales school has offered a Certificate III of Aviation (Remote Pilot Visual Line of Sight) VET course. 

“It’s an exciting educational opportunity,” teacher Andrew Knight tells EducationHQ.

“Technology is advancing at a rapid rate and this is a great opportunity for us to further incorporate current and emerging technologies in our school curriculum.”

Twenty students have enrolled in this year’s course, and have their peers to thank for the opportunity. Christopher Fais-Ayon and Ilija Svasta were two of the students who noticed the Certificate III of Aviation while browsing stalls at the Western Sydney Careers Expo.

“We brought it up with our careers adviser and she said she’d look into it and then ... two weeks later she told us that we could have the opportunity to have it running at our school the following year,” Svasta says.

Aside from gaining a leg up on other students their age, the Year 11 boys say doing the course as part of their secondary schooling is saving them up to $4500.

Knight says the offering has drawn an unexpected cohort of students.

“It’s interesting that a large percentage of the students [enrolling] are more academically talented students, it’s not low-ability students which you may expect,” he says.

“These students have chosen this course because they see it’s a way to further their career and make them more employable...”

Fais-Ayon, who has plans to use his specialist knowledge in the film industry when he leaves school, says career options are limitless.

“There are drones being applied to lots of different fields, for example [in] real estate, they use it a lot.

“[Also] security, you can have special cameras on it like infrared and you can use it for monitoring, surveillance, you can apply it to sports and photography, the film industry ... you can fly drones in whatever field you’re interested in,” he says. 

The students have been working with microdrones to hone their skills on a simpler device in preparation for when their VET teacher brings in the more expensive DJI Phantom 4s. 

“We learn the theory about how to control the drone manually, so that’s why we have the smaller drones, because they don’t have high tech GPS and stabilisation on them,” Svasta explains.

“So we learn how to fly them manually and then when we get on to the DJI Phantom 4s, we can fly them easier.” 

Students are also looking in detail at the laws pertaining to drone use, an important area which can often be forgotten in the excitement of the cutting-edge technology.

“In the theory classes we’re learning more about the rules and regulations of flying in suburban areas,” Svasta says.

“So what different areas we can fly in and the flight limits, for how high we can go, how fast, and what sort of areas we can go in.”

Fais-Ayon says he and his classmates are also learning new skills in sequential scanning and observations, mapping and accounting for different weather conditions.