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Local High School Girls Earn FAA Certification to Fly Drones

Elementary Institute of Science drone program taught high school girls to become FAA certified pilots

San Diego CA— Girls from four local high schools have earned their Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Remote Pilot Certification and will soon complete a drone training program at the Elementary Institute of Science (EIS).

The program, called “Girls Take Flight,” began last spring and will culminate in a graduation ceremony at EIS on November 15. Upon completion, each girl will receive a $1,250 stipend plus a $250 bonus for earning FAA certification.

“Last year, Girls Take Flight produced seven FAA certified female drone pilots and this year another seven,” said EIS executive director Jim Stone. He added, “And the program wraps up in October, so we expect a few more students will likely earn their FAA certification. That means our program will have produced 13% of all the female drone pilots in the US under the age of 19.”

“Girls Take Flight is very rigorous,” said drone instructor Anjelica Thang, “and these girls who are graduating from the program in November will have put in 150 hours each. It’s a tremendous accomplishment.” The program began with an assembly of about 65 high school juniors. Ultimately, 10 qualified to participate in an intensive, 6-month internship where they learned to build, program, and fly drones. A second instructor for the program, Desi Ekstein, is an accomplished drone pilot based in Lake Elsinore and has spent two days a week this summer teaching the girls to fly and helping them prepare for the FAA test.

“San Diego is home to many of the leading Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) companies in the world” said Linden Blue, CEO, GA-ASI, “Having a local program like Girls Take Flight that gets youth interested in UAS will help ensure San Diego remains a leader in UAS and aviation technology in general.”

Drones are playing an ever-increasing part in day-to-day life, including roles in agriculture, security, humanitarian aid, and disaster relief. According to a McKinsey and Company report, commercial drones —both corporate and consumer applications—will have an annual impact of $31 billion to $46 billion on the country’s Gross Domestic Product and create tens of thousands of new jobs.

Northrop Grumman Vice President Lauren Stevens said, “Girls Take Flight is a great program for San Diego because it supports the growth of a local, diverse talent pool for the UAS sector in our region. As a female executive in the aerospace and defense industry, I recognize the importance of programs like this that provide girls with S.T.E.M. opportunities and incentives that can lead to successful careers in technology.”

Girls Take Flight was funded by a number of companies and foundations, including SDG&E, Qualcomm, General Atomics, Cubic Corporation, Northrop Grumman, Aurora Flight Sciences, Western Digital, Cubic Corporation the Nordson Foundation, Jet Blue Foundation, Best Buy Foundation, and Price Philanthropies.