Azalea Middle School students are youngest to earn drone safety certification


Two middle school students in Pinellas County have become the youngest people to ever pass a particular drone safety certification.

They did it through a special program at their school, Azalea Middle in St. Petersburg. The school’s Academy of Engineering’s Unmanned Aviation Program is taught by Willis Reese.

“We started a program a couples years ago with an after-school program to teach the basics of drone flight and safety. From that we started looking into doing it as a regular course and we found out the state offered CAPE certification that’s basically professional adult career education certifications that the state provides and allows for through the school system. We looked into that program. We found that USI, the Unmanned Safety Institute was the company that was handling all of that. So we went to them and set up. Now we have two different certifications available for the students.”


One of the students is McKenzie Bell.


The other student is Stefan Iltchev.

“It’s really interesting. It’s very fun to learn. And get hands-on flight with big professional drones. Also some interested in this become some want to go into aerospace and for satellite. And thank you to Mr. Reese for all he’s done. He’s let us do all this. It’s an amazing course. It’s really nice. It teaches you a lot of safety and a lot of the rules.”

You talk about big drones. Give our listeners an idea, draw a picture for them of what that would be. What does the drone look like?

“Well, they go from small to really big. We’ve had like 11 or 12 drones. We’ve got our biggest one, our Inspire 2, a big, big, like a foot and a half wide. Big professional movie camera.”


The teacher, Willis Reese, says the COVID-19 pandemic has led people to think of new uses for drones.



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