Los Angeles city grant to fund drone pilot program

By Anastasia Landeros 

In partnership with the Los Angeles Economic and Workforce Development Department (EWDD) and the Workforce Development Board (WDB), East Los Angeles College received a $300,000 grant to develop and implement a drone and robotics program.

The Commercial Drone/ Robotics Training Program will offer students the opportunity to learn programming languages and obtain the credentials needed to work within the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) industry.

UVA refers to aircraft without a human pilot onboard, and is either remote controlled by a pilot or selfpiloted using onboard computers that are programmed to fly the drone. The curriculum for the program will be developed by ELAC Engineering and Technology Department faculty and staff in conjunction with the Tesla Foundation, a not-for-profit think tank dedicated to workforce development and technology education. 

ELAC’s robotics program will act as the foundation of the curriculum. Participating students will learn UAV theory and computer languages like C++, Adrinos and Python.

The Engineering and Technology Department chairperson Jose C. Ramirez said that ELAC was chosen to create the program because of its existing courses in engineering and technology.

“ELAC has more engineering classes, so we are the ideal. We have a robotics class. We have an Adrinos class. We have a robotics team.” The pilot program currently consists of individuals seeking job opportunities through the WDB. School program developers plan to expand the program into a permanent staple of the ELAC course catalogue once the program establishes its final curriculum.

The Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program director Dr. Armando Rivera said that because the UAV industry is an emerging field, ELAC wants to be the first to educate its workers, who will have the opportunity to branch out into different areas within its scope.

“That’s, I think, the beauty of (the industry). It’s not going to box you into one thing.” Rivera went on to say that students that participate in the program can go into areas like drone programming, safety, mechanics and management.

Touching on the application of the skills learned through the program, Rivera said that graduating students will be able to take their knowledge and apply it to industries outside of UAV such as entertainment, safety and sports, referring to the use of drones during the recent Super Bowl halftime show.

According to Ramirez, the EWDD will be seeking employers to place students that graduate from the program into positions that match their course of study. Of the partnership between the Tesla Foundation, Rivera said it’s mutually beneficial, as “they have the vision and we have the students.”

Spring participants are currently enrolled in math courses needed to participate in the program and will begin core classes during the Summer session. Additional reporting by Ivan Cazares.

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