Get to the chopper!

SAIT's Connector lab gives students a chance to engage with new tech — like drones

Drone pro: SAIT instructor Rick Duchscher talks about drones and what the future holds for the technology on Jan. 15 2024 in the Connecter lab on campus. (Photo by Jessyca Blakney/The Press)

As our world evolves with technology, drones are becoming popular in many different careers.

In the spring of 2022, SAIT opened the Connector lab, also known as the drone lab, as a new way to enhance student success in advanced technology.  

SAIT instructor Rick Duchscher is a Transport Canada flight reviewer with over 30 years of experience in geomatics and almost 10 years of experience using drones professionally.  

“Drones have always been a passion of mine,” he said. “They are very important in any emerging technology in geomatics and surveying. They are not taking the place of the traditional surveyor but they are becoming a much more important tool in their toolbox.” 

The Professional Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) program gives those who are interested the opportunity to learn and use modern drone technology.  

“Since receiving my basic drone licence, it has opened many new possibilities for me,” said Drew Collins, a student in SAIT’s Geomatic Engineering Technology program.

“I’m able to do more with my personal drone outside of controlled airspace and I’m better set up for taking my advanced exam.”

There are two different certifications to be licensed in drone technology. The basic test can be completed online and requires less study time. The advanced exam can also be completed through an online platform but is administered through Transport Canada with a $10 fee for every attempt.  

“The advanced RPAS exam can be tricky to pass on the first go,” Collins said. “I wouldn’t let this discourage anybody from taking it as the opportunities it presents will be worth it.”  

After passing this exam, the desired drone pilot must complete an in-person flight review with a Transport Canada flight reviewer to get their license. 

 “If you’re registered in classes full-time, we’ll do the flight review for you at no cost,” said Duchscher.

The possibilities are endless for SAIT students in the world of advanced technology. 

Summit Hermanson, another licensed drone student from the RPAS program in his fourth semester, knew that he wanted to pursue this pathway in the industry after his first flight.   

“I believe drones will incrementally take over the survey industry more and more as the technology becomes more advanced and even more optimized for survey applications,” he said. 

Drone technology is critical in surveying and geomatics, but it can also be used in various industries.  

“Whether you’re a civil engineering student or an architect, drones can also help generate 3D models and they can determine help with assessments of buildings and energy efficiencies,” said Duchscher.

“If you’re a School of Business journalism student, you could utilize drones for stories.”

Flying away: SAIT instructor Rick Duchscher pilots a drone on Jan. 15 2024 in the Connecter lab on campus. (Photo by Jessyca Blakney/The Press)
About Jessyca Blakney 3 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Jessyca Blakney is working as a writer for The Press in 2024.