ACC and FAA launch new drone training program

Public Safety Training Center Drone Program

Austin Community College District (ACC) partners with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for a new, innovative training program that prepares students for careers in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) or drones.

“Drones are the future. We use them for everything from simple delivery service to emergency response, but we need more people who are professionally trained to effectively and safely operate them,” says James Molloy, PSTC adjunct professor. “There are very few college-level options to obtain a certification in unmanned vehicle operations, so it's important we find a way to meet these needs.”

ACC’s Unmanned Vehicle Systems Operator program will be offered through the college’s Public Safety Training Center (PSTC) through a blend of online course instruction and hands-on lab practice. The program will train students to legally operate aviation drones, with plans to expand training for other drone systems including ground bots, fixed-wing, and marine drones. 

The program is part of the FAA’s College Training Initiative for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles initiative designed to standardize, professionalize, and develop training for small UAS. ACC is one of only 26 colleges across the country offering the program.

“The results of this collaborative working relationship will include a continuous dialogue with stakeholders to connect universities with general industry, local governments, law enforcement, and regional economic development entities to address labor force needs,” explains the FAA. “This collaboration will ensure [...] school graduates have the knowledge and skills needed to pursue a successful career in a UAS-related field.”

The certification program concept created by members of the PSTC staff, will be developed through a collaborative effort between multiple ACC programs including Radio, Television, and Film, Geographic Information Systems, Photography, Agriculture, Criminal Justice, Emergency Management, and Fire Technology. Additional Occupational Specialty Awards will be designed based upon industry partner needs and requests.

 The first Unmanned Vehicle Systems Operator courses are expected to begin fall 2020. 

For more information about the PSTC, visit