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September 07, 2022

Telecom Manager Mentoring Student Program on Drone Use

High school students learned how to use drones through a federally-funded summer Workforce of the Future program in southeastern Ohio.

Randy Lowe, manager, Telecommunications, helped provide practical experience in using drones, while working with Noble County schools and county officials which administer the pilot program. 

“The Noble County engineers wanted to use drones to survey 150 bridges and update the bridge asset records,” Lowe said. “The aerial photos will be used to support grant submissions for bridge replacement funding.”

Lowe developed the training program with the engineers office and students and provided the training. He also helped select the drones and the needed accessories to ensure that safe missions are performed. 

The FAA 107 Certificate for commercial operations is awarded by the Federal Aviation Administration. Anyone 14 years of age or older is eligible to take the test; if they pass, the certification will be held by the FAA and awarded when the student is 16-years-old.

Eight students participated in the initial drone program in the 2021-2022 school year. Five took the test, and three passed and became certified. The federal program funded the student’s salaries, drones and related accessories. The students were to fly more than 200 drone missions this summer. The school has 10 more students signed up for its drone program this fall.

“It is extremely rewarding working with high schoolers in a technology that they want to learn,” Lowe said. “Because of the increasing use of drones, the FAA has opened the door by allowing 16-year-olds to become certified to fly them commercially. At AEP, we have just begun to scratch the surface for drone usage in our business.”

He is now working with three more high schools in southeastern Ohio to develop similar programs for the upcoming school year. Lowe hopes to create a series of videos to help high schools develop their own drone programs.

"I thank Randy for his leadership and willingness to mentor and work with the students," said Brad Holt, director, Telecom Engineering Projects, Energy Delivery. "Randy is showcasing the AEP culture and commitment to safety to our communities, and providing opportunities to these students to see careers they may not have considered. Hopefully, a few of these students find a career as part of Randy’s work, perhaps a few could end up at AEP!"

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