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South Plains College’s Drone Program

South Plains College’s Drone Program: Shaping the Future of Aviation 

Drone technology is increasingly seen as the way of the future in industries such as healthcare, law enforcement, wind turbines and many more. Recognizing the potential of this emerging field, in spring 2023 South Plains College (SPC) launched a drone program where students can focus on obtaining their FAA certification and learning drone repair and assembly. 

Development of SPC’s Drone Program 

When developing the program, SPC looked to one of their associate professors and program coordinators Bill Tackett. Bill is a former SPC graduate with over 16 years of dedication to SPC. Before returning to Lubbock and accepting a teaching role at SPC, Bill worked for Texas Instruments where he mentored 8 High School STEM students in engineering and technical careers. He is also a licensed Aircraft Mechanic, an Electronics Technician as well as a seasoned teacher with experience in developing new courses. 

“When SPC approached me with this opportunity, I was intrigued and bought my first drone,” Bill said. “It’s been a labor of love ever since and providence is my only real explanation because I never really chose teaching, it chose me.” 

The SPC Drone Program officially started in Spring 2023, with Bill teaching one class: Drone Pilot Test Preparation AIRP1108. With help from his students, Bill went on to refine and develop the drone program further where he now offers an additional course: Assembly and Rigging AERM2233. 

Drone Courses at SPC

At SPC, students interested in drone technology have access to two main courses: AIRP1108 Drone Pilot Test Preparation and AERM2233 Assembly and Rigging. These courses provide a comprehensive foundation in both theoretical knowledge and practical skills.

In the Drone Pilot Test Preparation class, students not only prepare for the FAA certification test but also gain hands-on experience in flying drones. From basic maneuvers to advanced flight techniques, students learn to navigate different types of drones as their skills increase. Upon completion of the course, students receive their own drones to further hone their skills.

The Assembly and Rigging class focuses on the construction and repair of drones. Through collaborative projects, students learn about the various components of a drone and how to assemble them into a functional aircraft. Additionally, they gain valuable insight into troubleshooting and maintenance, preparing them for careers in drone technology.

Dones are also built into all of SPC’s IMET courses to ensure that they are producing technicians and pilots who are knowledgeable in a variety of fields. According to Bill, they call this “MacGyver…ing the students, making them capable and competent in any technical related field they may choose to join.” 

The Kookaburra Project: A Journey in Refurbishment

One of the most exciting initiatives within SPC’s drone program is the Kookaburra project. Donated by SWOOP AERO, these drones were previously used for medical supply delivery to remote villages in Africa. 

“They flew vaccines, blood and lifesaving equipment as well as lab samples back for lab work,” Bill said. “They have been attributed to having saved the lives of up to 10,000 women and newborn babies in Africa in those three years. However, they were crashed and damaged so they had to be removed from service.” 

Now, students at SPC have the opportunity to refurbish these drones, gaining hands-on experience in repair techniques and drone technology that range throughout plastic, fiberglass, carbon fiber, electronics, mold making, painting and flight service alignment. Once refurbished, these drones will be used for long-range flight training, once the FAA completes their assessments and SPC gets approval. 

Career Opportunities with Drone Certification

The drone industry offers a wide variety of career opportunities for certified professionals. Graduates of SPC’s drone program are well-equipped to pursue careers in various sectors, including:

  • Medical transport: Drones are increasingly used for transporting organs, vaccines and medical supplies between hospitals, creating opportunities for skilled drone pilots and technicians.
  • Infrastructure inspection: From windmill inspections to crop-dusting operations, drones provide cost-effective and efficient solutions for inspecting and maintaining critical infrastructure.
  • Law enforcement: Drones are utilized for surveillance, search and rescue missions and accident reconstruction, offering new avenues for law enforcement agencies to enhance their operations.

With their FAA certification from SPC, graduates are prepared to embark on fulfilling careers in the dynamic and rapidly evolving field of drone technology. Through hands-on training and real-world experience, SPC empowers students to soar to new heights in their professional endeavors. Bill stresses the fact that SPC “teaches the theory so the students can know why, they are hands-on so the students can know how and the when…is now as well as tomorrow. Therefore, the students learn to never stop learning.”  

To learn more about South Plains College (SPC) and their drone program, visit

Drone technology is increasingly seen as the way of the future in industries such as healthcare, law enforcement, wind turbines and many more.

Bill Tackett