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Drone Training Class by Winner of Syr Tech Business Competition Could Open Econ Opportunities

Chris Bolt/WAER News

One of the winners of a business competition at the Syracuse Tech Garden is now offering Drone Pilot training that could unlock great potential in the growing industry.  Only a small part of the SkyOpcourse is teaching you how to fly… the bigger gain is the learning the technology’s potential.

Brian Pitre got interested in drones as a business prospect back in 2012.  He took on a project of finding out what businesses might benefit from the technology.

“I went through every conceivable place I could find that would talk to me about using these flight systems.  I intended to do it for six months.  I actually did it for a year-and-a-half.  People don’t understand this technology.  Many people don’t appreciate how transformative this technology truly is.”

He found hundreds of uses for the unmanned aircraft systems as drones are called – both fixed wing crafts that look like little airplanes, and the quad-copter designs you might have seen.  Farmers could gauge crop watering and fertilizing …and decide when to harvest much more efficiently that walking the fields.  And Pitre says inspections of all kinds could benefit.

Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News / WAER FM
Brian Pitre, founder of Skyop, says the training helps people fly drones, but also teaches regulations, businesses uses and more.

“You might think of using fixed-wing (aircraft) for power lines because they’re going to cover a greater distance.  The same thing is true for windmills.  Today they take people, put them up on ladders and hoists and it’s dangerous.  Yet, you can take a quad-copter, go up and do a detailed inspection.  But it goes well beyond that, fiber optic, telephone lines and bridges.”

Add to that Real Estate and construction uses…including surveying a building site before excavating it within one centimeter of ground levels. 

Pitre won $250,000 in one of the Genius New York competitions, which allowed him to expand his idea to numerous colleges and other states.  His company

Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News
People who take the Skyop training learn on this type of system to fly visually and systematically, or robotic flying, where the aircraft follows a plotted path for mapping or surveillance.

SkyOp, based in Canadaigua, teaches people how to fly the crafts…but also the F-A-A rules and regs needed to get certified – something you need for any commercial use.  His company is also licensing the training to colleges here and in other states.  Sky-op in the future plans more courses around specific uses – as they develop. 

“But today the job growth we’re seeing out there is pretty remarkable.  And it is because this particular technology is catching on.  So a person can go, take training like this and start a new business, or they can be employed by a company, or they can take personnel existing in their company and get them up to date on what this technology does, and most importantly, the cost savings,” Pitre said.

Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News
Pitre notes this type of drone can be programmed to move using hand gestures...and can project its pictures back to a smart phone in real-time.

The training class at the Tech Garden in Syracuse starts August 1st …with a signup deadline of July 28th .  Information is at  

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.