Event /  3 Oct 2022

Become a Scientist Pilot!

Many drone training programs are conducted as though they are an end unto themselves, with becoming a remote pilot representing the primary goal. Our approach to aviation focuses on a set of inspirational environmental science examples, where those with interest or aptitude in the environment gain foundational knowledge and skills through linked examples of how drones can be applied in this field. Our course sequence will teach you how to fly drones safely and ethically, with the primary focus on how to collect robust data for science and natural resource management

Online Event
3 Oct 2022 - this event is in the past.


 Our 3 course sequence employs two powerful hooks to gain and maintain the attention of students and to convey key scientific aviation concepts:

  • Unoccupied Aircraft Systems (UAS, aka drones) are presently an inspirational technology that can be used to engage on basic aviation concepts, from the physics of flight to operational themes like air space management.
  • There has been significant growth in environmental science education and careers focused on changing earth systems and sustainable development challenges faced nationally and globally. Aviation support is a key element to many environmental science programs, but students rarely consider this as a viable pathway for an aviation career.
Enter the concept of the Scientist Pilot, an aviation professional focused on providing key services to environmental programs using drones.


UAS Applications and Operations in Environmental Science
  1. Introduction to UAS in Biology, Ecology, and Conservation: Discover the foundations of revolutionary drone technology and how it’s being applied in environmental science and management. (six weeks, asynchronous video lectures and assessments, plus six 1.5 hour synchronous sessions)

    Goal: Identify how drones can be applied in research, including your own
  2. UAS operations for Environmental Scientists: Learn the basics of drone flight operations, how to become legally certified, and how to fly effectively for scientific research purposes. (six weeks, asynchronous video lectures and assessments, plus six 1.5 hour synchronous sessions)

    Goal: Become the Scientist Pilot!
  3. Quantitative analysis of UAS data: Gain hands-on experience with drone data and modern analytical software needed to assess habitat changes, count animal populations, study animal health and behavior, and assess ecosystem relationships. (six weeks, asynchronous video lectures and assessments, plus six 1.5 hour synchronous sessions)

    Goal: Use drone data to test scientific hypotheses and communicate research results.
Learner Engagement and Interaction

This three course sequence is taught online, with both asynchronous and synchronous components, providing significant flexibility for professionals seeking to learn more about how drones are applied in environmental science. Class materials will be provided through Duke’s suite of learning tools, and interactions amongst students and instructors will be facilitated through Discord, a free voice, video, and text chat app that’s used by tens of millions of people to talk and hang out with their communities and friends. Our new Discord server – the Flight Deck – is a growing online community focused on sharing knowledge and experiences regarding the use of drones in research and natural resource management. Assessments of student work will be conducted via a range of tools, from embedded quizzes in videos to structured online debates. Students should plan on spending approximately five hours per week on reading and homework assignments and be prepared to meet the technology requirements of the course. For any addition registration questions, please email [email protected].


For more details on these courses, see this site: 



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