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San Diego
Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Grossmont College Launching Workforce Drone Program

EDUCATION: Certificates Lead to Local, High-Demand Jobs

Grossmont College continues to create educational opportunities that help students get ahead in the workplace, and the East County school will start to offer a free drone certification program as part of its vast catalog of courses.
Grossmont College, part of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District, will launch its program in the fall. It will be taught by Skip Fredricks, who has spent more than 20 years in TV and film production.
The proliferation of drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, shows up as a state-of-the-art tool in a variety of industries.
Operators control drones from the ground for jobs that include search and rescue operations; military missions and police surveillance; cinematography; inspections of buildings, power lines, and windmills; studies of the natural environment; and many other applications.
In the San Diego region, drone operators typically earn between $30 to $70 per hour.
Getting trained can be expensive. Instruction from a private company or institution, and then certification from the Federal Aviation Administration can cost up to $10,000.
While the course at Grossmont is free, Students will need to pay $175 for their pilot’s license exam with the FAA before moving on to one of the two tracks.
Grossmont officials say that pass rates on the FAA exam for past students at Grossmont College have ranged from 86% to 91% on the first try.
Grossmont’s program will include 105 hours of flight instruction and 75 hours of additional training in one of two tracks: cinematography or surveying and mapping.
A similar drone operations program supported by the U.S. Department of Labor and taught at Grossmont for several years ended last fall, after temporary grant funding stopped. The GCCCD governing board voted in March to expand the program moving forward.
Previous instruction in drone operations at Grossmont has trained more than 200 people for jobs in the regional economy, says Javier Ayala, Grossmont College’s Dean of Careers and Workforce Development.
The drone industry is one of the areas in the economy that has continued to grow through the COVID-19 pandemic, Ayala said, and there is no end in sight.
300% Growth

Javier Ayala
Dean of Careers and Workforce Development
Grossmont College

“The drone industry will only continue its prominence since it is expected to increase by 300% by 2030,” Ayala said. “Due to exponential growth in this area, jobs, commercial opportunities, industry verticals tied to the industry, the Grossmont College drone certificate program will help prepare students for the current and future workforce.”
Fredricks, who owns Hollywood Drones ( has been teaching cinematography and drone photography at the school since 2019 but said that the certification takes everything one step higher.

Skip Fredricks
Drone Instructor
Grossmont College

“This is an expansion of what we’ve been doing,” he said. “We’ve added 80 hours of training and expanded on the verticals. Where students first learned basic flight to get a basic job, this expands on cinematography and photography and gives them more real-world hands-on experience.”
Fredricks said that with a certificate in hand, students will be able to either start a company of their own or work in the many fields that are seeking drone videos and photos.
“These are very high-paying jobs for the pilots,” Fredricks said.

Hands-On Training

Fredricks said many operators today get their training from YouTube or TikTok – and both are inadequate. The training offered through Grossmont College sets students apart because it gives them extensive, hands-on coursework.
Fredricks said he has hired many former students to help him with jobs he’s taken on.
A group of former students along with Fredricks earlier this year was presented a bronze Telly Award for its work on a real estate shoot for ALLGIRE General Contractors. Fredricks said the students each earned $500 for their efforts.
“The skills they’ve come out with have allowed me to employ them right away in various productions and projects,” Fredricks said. “This is one of those tracks that you take and when you get out of college you can make good money.”
Once students complete the flight school and the specialized tracks at Grossmont College, they can transition into for-credit programs offered by GCCCD.
The credit programs, which offer more advanced training and expertise needed by drone operators, include cybersecurity, information technology, programming, data science and programmable logic controllers.
Fall registration opened June 27. Students can learn more about the new drone operations program at

Grossmont College
PRESIDENT: Denise Whisenhunt
BUSINESS: Education
BUDGET: Nearly $111 million (2022-23)
CONTACT: (619) 644-7000
SOCIAL IMPACT: Leading provider of higher education and workforce training in San Diego East County.
NOTABLE: Grossmont College has served about 1.6 million students in more than 60 years.


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