Vaughn College hosted its second annual International Drone Day event on May 6, where members of the College’s unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) club welcomed the public and shared their excitement and knowledge of unmanned aerial vehicles. It was a hands-on, high flying experience.

About International Drone Day

International Drone Day is a worldwide event where over 150 cities simultaneously celebrate drones and their uses. This global experience is a collaborative effort that was started three years ago to educate the public, media and local governments about the incredible ways drones are used for good in our society, such as in search and rescue, conservation, agriculture, sport, and film.

“We are excited to be hosting International Drone Day at Vaughn,” said Peter Kalaitzidis ’21, a member of the College’s UAV club and mechanical engineering technology student at Vaughn. “It’s an incredible opportunity for us to show off the many capabilities UAVs have to offer and enlighten enthusiasts and the younger generation on how to build and fly them.”

Drone technology takes off

Once thought of as an object only seen in sci-fi movies, UAV technology is on the fast track to becoming one of today’s hottest aviation trends. “Radio controlled technology has been around for years,” said Kalaitzidis, “but now it can be used for so much more than recreational use or photography. Today’s researchers are working toward developing UAV technology to help humanity. We’re already seeing applications in the medical field using UAVs as delivery systems for medical supplies, such as insulin and defibrillators.”

Unveiling of first passenger drone

A Chinese company may have changed the course of drone technology by taking the “unmanned” part out of UAV. Guangzhou-based EHang Inc. unveiled the world’s first drone capable of carrying a human passenger at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The EHang 184 is an electric-powered drone that can carry one person (weighing up to 220 pounds), and it can fly for 23 minutes at sea level. It is designed to fly from 1,000 to 1,650 feet off the ground, reach a maximum altitude of 11,500 feet, and fly at a top speed of 63 mph. The cabin has enough room to fit a small backpack and is equipped with air conditioning and a reading light. With its propellers folded, the EHang 184 can fit in a single parking spot. “The technology is growing at an exponential rate,” Kalaitzidis said. “The future may be here before we know it. This amazing technology of the EHang 184 has the possibility of eliminating traffic on the ground, as people will be able to use private drones instead of helicopters to get from one place to another.”

Future aviators

As a highly decorated retired staff sergeant of the United States Air Force, Kalaitzidis is an expert in his field. “Going back to school after my military career was the best decision to move my career forward,” Kalaitzidis stated. As a client liaison at DJI, the world’s largest drone manufacturer, he said it was important to have his bachelor’s degree to climb to the next level. “I want to be a part of the excitement to design the next generation of UAVs,” said Kalaitzidis. “Vaughn gives us all the tools we need to apply our knowledge. International Drone Day is just another way I can share my passion and experience with young aviation enthusiasts to help fuel their dreams.”

Pursuing her passion has paid off for Vaughn College graduate, Jessenia Diaz ’10, as she landed her dream job as an air traffic controller at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens County, New York.

During her high school years, Diaz decided she wanted to become an air traffic controller. “I read articles about the air traffic control shortage at that time and saw an opportunity in the field,” said Diaz. “I researched schools in my area and discovered Vaughn. The rest is history.” Diaz applied to Vaughn and was awarded scholarships to help pay for her education. In addition to studying for her bachelor’s degree, Diaz said she put her money to work for her and earned a certificate in Vaughn’s flight dispatch program and took a series of courses in the Air Traffic-Collegiate Training Initiative program, a partnership between the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Vaughn.

“My professors at Vaughn helped me tremendously,” Diaz stated. “Some of my teachers were actual air traffic controllers from local airports. The kind of hands-on experience that they passed down to us was priceless.”

In December 2010, Diaz graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in airport management and general management, won the Board of Trustees award at spring convocation and was selected as the student commencement speaker for 2011.

“As a first-generation college graduate in my family, it was not only a proud moment for myself but for my family.” After graduation, she was hired by the FAA and attended a three-month basic air traffic control training program in Oklahoma while awaiting to see where she would be placed for an air traffic control position. “I was so excited to hear that I would be working at JFK airport,” Diaz said excitedly. “I was going back home.” After training for two years at JFK, she is now a fully-certified air traffic controller.

Working as an air traffic controller comes with enormous responsibility. “We are the pilot’s eyes and ears on the ground,” said Diaz. “Pilots may have the best equipment on the plane, but they depend on us to navigate them from the ground.” She describes her job as exhilarating and says that no two days are ever the same.

“I love my job and wouldn’t trade working in New York for anything,” Diaz said. “My time at Vaughn gave me the knowledge and experience to get me where I am today.”

Questions, comments, or want to learn more about Vaughn’s Aviation Management Bachelor Degrees and Air Traffic Control Program?  Contact us today!