Gulfport, Miss. (WAPT) –
Drone technology is taking off in Mississippi and drones are showing up everywhere.
Some think of drones as toys, or maybe as a hobby, but the technology is becoming a workhorse for several industries. For Mississippians who are taking advantage of being on the cutting-edge technology, the sky is the limit.
Hinds Community College has offered the Unmanned Aerial Systems Program for the past seven years.
“(There’s) no syllabus, no road map to follow when we started this,” HCC instructor Dennis Lott said. “When we started this, there were only about two or three community colleges in the nation that (offered drone classes). We were the only one in the southeast.”Play VideoPlayMuteLoaded: 0%Progress: 0%-1:04CaptionsFullscreen
A lab at the John Bell Williams Airport in Raymond is where the future drone pilots begin to earn their wings. The training begins with computer flight simulators, which allow students to put their hands on the controls and fly around a virtual environment. They also learn the ins and outs of drones, so they can build their own.
Students learn several ways to master the controls.
“The best part is the knowledge. You can’t find it anywhere else. You can get it right here at Hinds, and I just love it,” student Jonathan Braud said.
The students learn about working as a team with a pilot and a spotter.
The students who complete the course will graduate with an associate’s degree, along with industry and FAA certifications. They will be ready for jobs that are expected to grow in the state in the fields of construction, mapping, land surveying, media, commercial real estate and in one of Mississippi’s largest industries — agriculture.Play VideoPlayMuteLoaded: 0%Progress: 0%-0:32CaptionsFullscreen
“The farm community is finally beginning to understand the benefit and efficiencies and cost-savings that these aircrafts bring,” Lott said.
Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said the possibilities with drone technology are limited only by one’s imagination.
“It is the wave of the future, and Mississippi is uniquely positioned for this,” Hosemann said.
Hosemann’s office is using drones to survey some of the state’s barrier islands off the Gulf Coast. Cat Island was purchased after the BP oil spill and there is some work that’s needed to refresh the island.Play VideoPlayMuteLoaded: 0%Progress: 0%-0:53Fullscreen
“It was gradually being worn away by waves and whatnot and by hurricanes,” Hosemann said. “They actually pumped 250 feet of sand, so we watched with drone footage (and) exactly where the sand was being placed. We had to monitor that as it went in, and they put in over 2 miles of sand, 250 feet wide on that island. Now it’s renourished as it was, really, when we first started with the Spanish back in the 1500s.”
From protecting ecosystems to protecting and serving citizens, even the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency is using drones, most recently to survey the damage from February’s storms in north Mississippi.
Drones are also a new tool in law enforcement’s arsenal.Play VideoPlayMuteLoaded: 0%Progress: 0%-3:40Fullscreen
“We’re looking for missing people in the woods, elderly people who have walked off. Mental patients that may not be able to find their way home,” said Deputy Tyson Burleson, with the Rankin County Sheriff’s Office.
They also hunt for bad guys and help other police agencies across the state.
“We’ve been to Simpson County, Scott County, Yazoo County — we’ve been all over the local area,” Burleson said.
Deputy Chris Mackey started the RCSO drone unit.
“It goes up the chain of command and the sheriff makes the final call on if we can go fly or not,” Mackey said. “So, when it comes to using it for nefarious purposes, or things like that, we don’t turn a motor unless the sheriff says it’s OK.”
Across many different job sectors, drone technology is being researched, tested and applied in Mississippi, with the possibility of many jobs and business opportunities on the horizon in the coming years.
“There weren’t drones when I was growing up, of course, and their uses are unlimited,” Hosemann said. “I want us to be the incubator for that thought process.”