Helps Kids Take Flight Through the RBS “Sponsor a Student” Youth Aviation Program
“Isn’t it amazing what can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit.”
-Harry S. Truman
That is RBS Drone Technologies, Inc. Principal Ken Rapier’s favorite quote, and one he likes to use to set the tone for meetings. As in “Welcome to our meeting. ‘We’ have work to do,” says Ken.
And just who is this ‘we’ he refers to? “‘We’ means someone will be there when there are youngsters to serve,” says Ken.
‘We’ might refer to the licensed drone pilots, commercial pilots, US military veterans, shipmaster, former law enforcement officers and teachers who make up RBS Drone Technologies, the company. It might reference the local “DODO” Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen: everyone involved in RBS is also a member of The Tuskegee Airman. It might be Derrick Henry, Chicago Public Schools teacher and licensed drone pilot and instructor for RBS, as in “we provide an after-school youth program at Air Force Academy High School.” And ‘we’ could be a nod to The Frogs Club*, an African American men’s social club with a community service component that operates anonymously. Everyone involved in RBS has a toe in each of these other entities as well.
“The lines are blurred on purpose,” says Ken. “We all have the same objective—to help as many young people as we can and to make sure that cost is no barrier for a child who wants to be a drone pilot.”
Drone Program for Youths: Preparing for Jobs of the Future
The good news for high school students with an entrepreneurial spirit is, you only have to be 16 to take the exam to get your commercial drone pilots license. While it takes classroom training to prepare for the FAA Pat 107 exam and to learn safety and rules of flying, “Video game playing is great preparation for being a drone pilot,” says Ken.
Extracurricular programs are in many cases hindered by costs and design, meaning our youth cannot position themselves to access the tools they need in order to compete in today’s workforce. As drones are one of the up and coming focuses in the field of aeronautics, RBS has developed a youth program to address this gap. “It’s one way to give students a marketable set of skills they can take with them after they graduate from high school and beyond,” says Ken.
Grant Launches Youth Program in 2019
In 2019 Synchrony Financial granted the local Tuskegee Airmen chapter $5,000 for 10 youths to train, take the test and get their commercial drone pilots license. RBS Drone Technologies implemented the program. The students were recruited through the Bessie Coleman** Aviation All-Stars program at Gwendolyn Brooks High School, where the program took place.
Derrick Henry, instructor for RBS Drone Technologies commercial training, is also a licensed teacher with Chicago Public Schools, and is in the classroom with the students. “When teaching youth in Chicago, it’s not just about teaching the course content,” says Derrick, who works closely with each student. A state or federal ID is required to take the FAA test. As is an email address. “Instruction means whatever is needed to see a student through the process.”
So far four students have successfully completed studies and earned their license. Another four are ready to go, just waiting for their 16th birthdays. The program now has moved to Air Force Academy High School in Chicago, where Derrick runs the after-school Drone Club. For now, RBS facilitates the program, Derrick volunteers his time to teach the content, and the grant covers all the out of pocket expenses (exam fees and supplies). Derrick works with the students until he is sure they are well-prepared to pass the exam.
And that’s just the written part of becoming a licensed drone pilot. RBS’ Captain Mark Stevenson and Mark Thompson do hands-on training with the students at the Gary Airport in Gary Indiana, to make sure students know how to effectively operate a drone and are set to be employed by a company as a drone operator or to start their own consulting business.
What makes this youth program so unique is the care that RBS takes to make sure each student has what they need to succeed. When teaching youth in Chicago, it’s more than just saying the information and hoping it sticks; if class is over and an instructor doesn’t think a student is ready for the test, they will keep on teaching them until they are ready.
And even after all of that, if they need help, the “We” of RBS are always available to support students in any way they can, whether it’s a technical question they’re unsure about or if there’s something specific they want to learn how to do. This youth program goes beyond instruction and sees students through the entire process from start to finish.
Sponsor a Chicago Student Today
Through the RBS “Sponsor-a-Student” program, students can get the financial support they may need to become a professional drone operator.
For $500, you can sponsor a student’s training, supplies, and exam fee. This will cover all costs for training: $150 for the FAA Part 107 exam and $350 for instruction and supplies.
The training program includes 8 hours of coursework and 2 hours of hands-on training with a drone, along with assistance to become certified as a drone pilot including preparation to take the exam for certification and access for past students to review coursework.
Qualifications for the sponsorship program include:
- Youth must be between the ages of 16 to 21.
- Must be willing to arrange time for coursework.
- Must provide time and attendance for both coursework and hands-on training.
- Must be willing to take the 107 Drone Certification Examination.
- Must have 2 recommendations by:
- A sponsor
- A classroom teacher, counselor and/or principal at school
- Sponsors may select a youth that meets the qualification for the Program.
- Will financially support the $500 cost of the program for the youth he/she has chosen.
- Will accept recognition of his/her support of the program.
Become part of the “we” team.
Another favorite mantra for Ken is: “There is no limit to what a group of dedicated individuals that act as one can accomplish.”
*The Frogs name comes from The Frogs, by Aristophanes, a Greek comedy from 405 BCE that touched on the idea of recapturing the virtues that had made Athens preeminent.
**The Bessie Coleman Aviation All-Stars program was founded by GiGi Coleman, Bessie’s grandniece. Bessie Coleman was the first African American–man or woman–in the world to receive a commercial pilot license. Read more about Bessie Coleman here.