- Associated Press - Thursday, January 19, 2017

HAYDEN, Idaho (AP) - Two community colleges in Idaho will offer classes on piloting unmanned aerial vehicles to train people for jobs in the growing commercial drone industry.

Brad Ward, president of Hayden-based drone company Empire Unmanned, will teach the first two-day class at North Idaho College in February, reported The Capital Press (https://bit.ly/2k7mAcK ). Company co-founder Steve Edgar will teach another course at Treasure Valley Community College.

Ward said he plans to offer courses every other month, depending on demand.

“We’ll be able to expand into other areas that were harder to find pilots to do the flying now,” he said.

The Federal Aviation Administration last summer removed a requirement that drone operators also be licensed to pilot manned aircraft. The new rules allow people to become certified through a 16-hour course and a test.

Ward said his company has already added two employees who obtained a remote pilot certificated by didn’t previously have a pilot’s license.

“There are lots of military vets who have spent hundreds of hours flying drones but aren’t a pilot,” Ward said. “We can hire them now.”

Western businesses are using drones for several tasks, such as imaging for precision agriculture, and say they are poised for significant expansion. Empire Unmanned focused on precision agriculture before last year, but it tripled its sales by moving into sectors like mining, engineering and structure inspections, according to Ward.

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Information from: The Capital Press (Ore.), https://www.capitalpress.com/washington

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