First Ever Piccolo Commercial Operator Certificates Earned in Pendleton, Oregon

Aug. 6, 2020

The end of July marked the completion of the first ever Piccolo​​ Commercial Operator training course offered by the Pendleton UAS Range (PUR). The range has been rapidly growing for years, reflecting the rapid expansion of the UAS industry as a whole. The Pendleton range alone has created over 60 aerospace jobs in just 3 years, and staff expects that figure to more than double by summer 2021.

However, range staff have been very concerned that high schools and colleges were not teaching the skills necessary to actually get someone hired into this exciting and high-paying new industry. “What is really needed,” according to Steve Lawn, PUR’s Chief Engineer, “is a more fundamental understanding of how to operate a UAS, which is what students receive from this intensive 4-day course.”

The Piccolo​​ Flight Management System, manufactured by Collins Aerospace, is the most prolific autopilot in the world, currently used in over 130 different platforms (vehicles). Historically, the only way to receive this specialized training was to get hired by a UAS company, and the only way to get hired was to come out of the military with UAS experience. “With thousands of jobs coming online in the next 5-10 years, that’s just too small a labor pool to fill the gap,” Mr. Lawn explained.

To solve this supply shortage, the Pendleton UAS Range decided to provide the specialized training without the student having to take the military route. PUR hired the manufacturer, Collins Aerospace, to come onsite and provide their personalized, professional training to aspiring UAS operators and maintainers. Each graduate was awarded a Piccolo​​ Commercial Operator certificate from Collins Aerospace, which has never been done before. “It’s a bit like an aptitude test,” Mr. Lawn added, “like an operator bootcamp, if you will. Companies reviewing resumes will immediately recognize the Piccolo name, and this certificate should move applicants to the top of the stack.”

Over the week, each student gained the skills necessary to command an unmanned aircraft equipped with the Piccolo​​ system. The inaugural class enjoyed a good blend of high school graduates, college engineering students, UAS professionals hoping to transition to operators, and a few UAS professionals looking to just freshen up their skills. Drew Budig, who graduated from Arizona State University’s UAS program in the fall, said, “Second to my degree, I feel this is the best addition to my resume that will help me get a job as a UAS operator.” The professional instructors and small class sizes (8 seats) ensure that the students are fully grasping the concepts and are truly ready for employment.

Of the students in the first class, two high school students and one college student were on scholarships provided by AUVSI Cascade Chapter​​​, an organization dedicated to promoting unmanned systems in the Northwest. The range is also working on a job board to try and connect certificated students with hiring companies. “We’re not just doing this for the fun of it,” Mr. Lawn commented, “our goal is get each and every one of our students employed in the industry.”

Courses are taught one week every month. Visit ​​​ to learn more.