Our Pit Stop in Louisiana 

On our way to the ACTE CareerTech Vision conference in Nashville, Tennessee, we decided to take the opportunity to visit our good friends, Steve Johnson and Jason St. Pierre, at Walker High School.

Steve and Jason were early adopters of our program and we have been working with them ever since. I remember the first moment Jason contacted me about our innovative curriculum. He called me early in the morning and the first question he asked was “how is the weather in Alaska right now?”. This led to some confusion on my end, but after some introductions and a little context, he called me the next day ready to commit to the program and send his chosen instructor to Alaska.

Steve Johnson was Jason’s lucky pick to come to Alaska for Advanced Aerial Education’s two week teacher training and certification. Needless to say, my first impression of Steve was that he was excited and a little nervous. He wasn’t sure what to expect from our two week course, but was willing to do whatever it took to get it done.

Our first day in the Learning Management System was a shock to all of our instructors, including Steve. There is a significant amount of content and very little time to become familiar with it all. On top of this, there are the practical flying components that must be passed to receive our endorsement to take the certification exam. Beyond the actual book-work, I think the flying of a small hobbyist aircraft was just as shocking to Steve.

Steve had some prior experience flying sUAS back in Walker. He was used to flying an aircraft with a standard amount of automation and stabilization found in the industry today, especially for drones with integrated cameras. The moment he picked up our initial training aircraft was probably one he will never forget. Not long after takeoff, that aircraft was in the wall, then the ceiling, then on the ground. I remember his frustration with having experience and yet struggling to keep this small toy-like aircraft flying. This frustration did not stop him, and through persistence and some replacement parts, he mastered flying that small aircraft.

Steve remained diligent, and upon completion of our course, he passed both our certification exam and was the highest scoring teacher on the FAA exam.

It is always exciting for us at Advanced Aerial Education to work with a variety of teachers and students and educate them about our unique industry. It was exciting to see Steve come into our program with one idea, and leave with a whole other set of ideas and applications for sUAS both in the industry as well as the classroom.

During our visit to Walker High School last week, we were amazed to see what Jason and Steve were up to. They are taking the applications of sUAS to new heights, literally. They are building a Drone Academy on campus and integrating the skills they have learned into the local community. They are building a sUAS store on campus for the general public as well as students where they will be able to sell as well as repair and maintain unmanned aircraft.

AAE’s founding principles are to create a safe and professional flight community through rigorous education, self-policing, and strong community engagement. We are proud to partner with educational leaders like Jason and Steve who share those values. We wish Walker High School the best of luck in the completion of their Drone Academy and we are excited to support them every step of the way.

– Nick