NMC receives $90K FAA grant to train high school teachers

TRAVERSE CITY — NMC has received a $90,000 aviation workforce development grant to train 40 high school teachers in Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) fundamentals, as well as equip each with a multi-rotor unit to use with their own students.

The grant, from the Federal Aviation Administration, is intended to address the need for operators and technicians in the growing UAS field. By equipping high school teachers with the skills, knowledge, technology and certifications required to develop new UAS programs or update existing ones, alignments will occur between the high school programs and NMC, making the pathway to industry and employment more attainable.

The grant builds upon NMC’s selection as a UAS Collegiate Training Program, the only one in Michigan, by the FAA in 2020. Competition for the grant was “rigorous.”

“Requests for project support far exceeded the $5 million Congress made available in fiscal year 2020. You are to be commended for an extraordinary response to the FAA opportunity,” grant manager Miranda Haywood said in the award letter.

“NMC has been on the forefront of UAS education since we launched the program in 2010,” said NMC UAS Program Manager Tony Sauerbrey. “This is another great example of how the program continues to innovate and lead for the benefit of our students.”

The grant coincides with a statewide push for high school career and technical education programs to begin UAS training. A preliminary statewide articulation agreement valid for any high school UAS program allows students to earn NMC credit for those classes. NMC currently has a strong relationship with the Char-Em ISD and Harbor Springs High School, and has created pathways for students there to continue their education at NMC.

Teachers from around the state will be able to participate in the training, expected to occur in summer 2022 at NMC’s private airfield in Yuba. Upon completion, the 40 teachers will be able to safely conduct a complete flight from startup to shut down, without instructor intervention. System calibration, set-up, troubleshooting, and best operating practices will be included to address typical issues seen in the field and with new pilots. Each teacher will also take a 10-week Remote Pilot Test Preparation course online. Passing the FAA Remote Pilot Certification exam constitutes completion and is required to operate drones commercially.

In addition to the training on drone operations, NMC will also consult with high schools to increase awareness of the UAS industry and assist in curriculum and program development. The goal is to create more career options and education pipelines for students entering this new industry.

Since NMC’s UAS program (nmc.edu/uas) began in 2010, it has produced graduates who are currently working in all aspects of the industry including launching startup companies and assisting private businesses and public institutions. NMC operates a fleet of unmanned aerial systems that rivals much larger universities. NMC’s small class size allows the program to innovate and remain responsive to the ever changing industry of Unmanned Aerial Systems.

Release date: December 7, 2021

For more information:

Tony Sauerbrey
UAS Program Manager
(231) 995-2925


Northwestern Michigan College is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all persons and does not unlawfully discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, disability, genetic information, height, weight, marital status or veteran status in employment, educational programs and activities, and admissions. nmc.edu/non-discrimination