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ECC’s New Drone Program Unique in NC

Thomas Parrish, Information Technology Studies instructor at Edgecombe Community College, will teach courses in the College’s new Drone certificate program, which begins in October. An FAA-certified UAV pilot, Parrish heads up the College’s Continuing Education drone program.

In October, Edgecombe Community College will launch a unique certificate program in Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Drones).

ECC will be the only community college in the state to offer the program.

Classes for the new Drone certificate begin October 22. The certificate will be available through the College’s Geospatial Technology program and will emphasize training in mapping and other geospatial data uses, in addition to preparing students for certification testing.

“Drones are becoming an important tool for many industries as well as for government agencies,” explains Trey Cherry, department chair of Information Technology Studies at ECC. “For example, small drones are increasingly used in disaster-related projects. Recently, NC Department of Transportation officials deployed eight drone teams in response to Hurricane Dorian.

“We’re seeing a huge increase in drone applications, and with that comes the need for highly skilled drone aviators. That’s where Edgecombe Community College enters the picture.”

The new Drone certificate can be completed in two semesters and requires seven courses. Five of the classes are online, and two meet on the Tarboro campus of ECC.

A key element of ECC’s program is a focus on the legal aspects of drone aviation. Cherry explains, “If you’re using a drone for profit, you are required to be certified. One of our courses prepares students for small Unmanned Aircraft Systems flight certification through the Federal Aviation Administration and the NC Department of Transportation.”

What makes the program unique is that in addition to the course covering certification prep, other courses examine drone applications from a business perspective, how to use drones as a platform for gathering imagery as well as geospatial data, and how to utilize that information. The program focuses on the acquisition and use of imagery and spatial data, with the drone as the platform for capturing that data.

Faculty in ECC’s Geospatial Technology program will instruct the geospatial classes. Thomas Parrish, Information Technology Studies instructor, will teach the drone courses. An FAA-certified UAV pilot, Parrish heads up the College’s Continuing Education drone program.

“New applications for drones are emerging constantly,” Cherry adds. “Cell tower inspections, construction site mapping, solar farm surveys – the uses are endless. Our goal is to train drone aviators who are skilled at flying drones, understand the legalities, and know how to apply the technology.”

To learn more about ECC’s new Drone certificate program, please contact Cherry at

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