Drone Training for First Responders: Aquiline Drones offers free “Flight to the Future” training.
By Jim Magill
As the nation approaches the 20th anniversary of September 11, 2001, in commemoration of the sacrifices made by first responders on that day, Connecticut-based Aquiline Drones is offering its Flight to the Future drone training program free to all interested police officers and firefighters.
The hybrid online and in-person training program, which instructs its trainees in how to earn a Federal Aviation Administration Part 107 certification as well as gives instruction in setting up a drone-related business, normally costs $1,299.
Barry Alexander, Aquiline Drones’ founder and CEO, said the company is offering the complimentary program to first responders in recognition of all they have done for their fellow citizens from 9/11 through to the present day.
“We thought that they should be equipped with the best tools to help them do their jobs efficiently, but also to keep them out of harm’s way as much as possible,” he said. “This program is designed to provide them with a superlative skill set, but also to celebrate what first responders do for us as a society every day.”
The course teaches everything from Federal Aviation Administration regulations, to drone hardware and software, to cloud technology. Most of the instruction is conducted online, with a hands-on training component offered at the end of the remote instruction.
Most of the hands-on portion of the course is currently conducted at Aquiline’s headquarters in Connecticut, “but we are setting up training facilities across the country that will allow groupings of individuals within close proximity of the training to attend for a couple of days,” Alexander said.
This in-person training is critical to providing trainees with “the initial operating experience to qualify as a competent and safe drone-service provider,” he said.
The timeline for completing the course is based on each individual’s aptitude and circumstances and usually averages between six and eight weeks.
The Flight to the Future training, which Aquiline introduced in the spring of 2020, consists of a four-step program. In the first step, trainees are required to master topics related to FAA’s Part 107 drone pilot certification. Step two introduces the trainees to some of the emerging technologies that are reshaping the drone industry, such as cloud and edge computing, the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence.
As they progress through this step, trainees will be introduced to Aquiline’s Command and Control (C2) platform, a cloud-connected drone operations management service, powered by AD Cloud, a hybrid cloud for drones with special edge capabilities.
In step three trainees gain expertise in commercial drone applications, using an advanced flight simulator. In this training module, industry experts offer in-depth treatments on specific applications, such as videography, asset inspection, surveying and security.
Step four offers the trainees the tools they need to set up their own drone-related business. Aquiline Drones also provides trainees with key services based on their individual preferences. Instruction in a variety of topics — business formation, leasing of drones and other equipment, insurance, maintenance plans and marketing – is available to trainees on an ala carte basis.
First responders applying for the complimentary training will be able to take advantage of the program’s specialized instruction in the use of drones in the firefighting and law enforcement professions, Alexander said.
In addition to offering the training program for free to first responders, Aquiline is also offering drones and related equipment, such as camera-sensor packages, to police and fire departments at reduced rates.
The tuition-free first responders’ program, which is scheduled to run through the end of 2021, is an extension of the mission to train the next generation of drone pilots and technicians that Aquiline adopted when it launched the Flight to the Future Program last year, Alexander said.
“With drone technology being relatively new, we saw a need to provide adequate training to individuals who were unemployed, underemployed and displaced, or looking for career changes,” Alexander said. “As it relates to 9/11, we saw a need to offer it to law enforcement, firefighters and other first responders on a national scale for free.”
In a statement, Alexander noted that first responders have long thought of drones as their eyes in the sky and used them in a variety of ways in emergency situations, including search and rescue, crime scene analysis, mapping, active shooter investigations, event monitoring and accident reconstruction.
In emergency response situations when seconds count, drones can be sent ahead of the first responders to assess the situation on the ground to give responders a critical heads-up. Drones also are to deliver critical medical supplies and equipment to victims not readily reachable by a human in time to save their life.
When emergency calls involve criminal activities, drones can be deployed ahead of the arrival of police to provide first-person viewing and real-time situational awareness. Drones can capture images of continuing criminal activity, providing first responders with live footage of the scene and even record video footage or still images of criminals who had left the scene before the arrival of law enforcement personnel.
Jim Magill is a Houston-based writer with almost a quarter-century of experience covering technical and economic developments in the oil and gas industry. After retiring in December 2019 as a senior editor with S&P Global Platts, Jim began writing about emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, robots and drones, and the ways in which they’re contributing to our society. In addition to DroneLife, Jim is a contributor to Forbes.com and his work has appeared in the Houston Chronicle, U.S. News & World Report, and Unmanned Systems, a publication of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.