ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The drone industry is rapidly expanding. Now, Central New Mexico Community College says it is leading the way by developing a certificate program.

The idea is to create a qualified workforce to meet a demand for unmanned aerial systems.

CNM already offers a few courses on the topic of drones, but now the college is looking to expand.

“What we see with the drones that’s very exciting is that they apply to so many programs within the school of applied technologies at CNM and across the college in general,” said Amy Ballard, Associate Dean of the College of Applied Technologies.

Instructor Nate Geoffrion says the need for trained unmanned aircraft system technicians is growing.

With a background in engineering and construction, Geoffrion sees the demand firsthand.

“What we need to do is teach people exactly how these tools can be used and how they’re beneficial,” he said.

While he says drones are commonly used in real estate and film, they are becoming more prominent in fields like construction, agriculture and environmental studies, capturing mapping and thermal data.

There’s even a use for drones in public safety and law enforcement, he said.

Instructor John Beltran says these industries need more than just someone who knows how to operate a drone.

“It’s somewhat easy to fly a drone and take some pictures. What the difficult part is, the background in being able to make sense of that data and put it into something usable,” Beltran said.

The new certificate program will teach students just that.

“People have to understand that the drone is just the data collection tool if you really want to thrive in this industry you have to know how to create the value-added product,” Ballard said. “So we feel like we’re being very conscientious and mindful about what the local workforce needs.”

The dean of the School of Applied Technologies expects the program to be approved in the coming weeks. The course would then start next fall.


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