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Tribe wins grant funding to train drone operators

Mission, OR – Community members from the Umatilla Indian Reservation interested in a career in the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) industry can receive financial support through the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation’s (CTUIR) Workforce Development Department.

CTUIR has hired one its tribal enterprises, Cayuse Native Solutions, to support implementation of the grant by doing drone demonstrations, community outreach, staff training in digital marketing, assist in teaching the courses, and helping grant administrators interview applicants.

The CTUIR was recently awarded a Future Ready Oregon Workforce Ready Grant from the Higher Education Coordinating Commission that will help CTUIR community members become certified drone operators. The state investment package advances opportunities to recruit and retain a diverse workforce in key sectors of Oregon’s economy: technology, health care and manufacturing.

The funding received by CTUIR covers drone training fees, exam fees, earn and learn stipends, equipment incentives, and wrap around services such as daycare and transportation expenses for selected participants from the CTUIR community.

“This grant is an amazing opportunity for our community members to start a career in the growing and fascinating drone industry. We are fortunate to be located near the Pendleton UAS Test Range and to have a tribal enterprise who provides drone services (Cayuse Native Solutions). These factors helped us identify the drone industry as a workforce development opportunity for our community,” said CTUIR Workforce Development Director Lindsey X. Watchman.

For each participant, CTUIR can pay for a training course called “UAS Professional Pilot Path” that includes 80 hours of ground school preparation in the fundamentals of UAS operations and 80 hours of flight instruction with drone simulators and real multirotor and fixed wing drones. The course is taught by Delmar Aeroeducation (formerly called Volatus Group, a division of Delmar Aerospace).

The class can be taken over a period of 4 weeks (2-week segments, during regular business hours), or through Blue Mountain Community College over two college quarters (evening classes). The two options are taught by the same instructors of Delmar and Cayuse Native Solutions, who are certified drone pilots and experienced in teaching the drone curriculum.

After a participant completes the training, the grant will pay the fee for the Federal Aviation Administration Part 107 exam, a certification required for drone pilots to commercially operate a drone.

Once certified, the new drone pilot will be offered a temporary job at a drone company where they can learn and perform tasks as on-the-job training. While working in the temporary role, the new drone pilot will earn a stipend. The grant can also assist the participant in purchasing their own drone.

This is a 3-year, $2 million Workforce Ready “Innovation in Workforce Programs” grant, designed to advance opportunities to strengthen Oregon’s economic competitiveness by removing barriers to education and employment, developing a diverse workforce, and supporting businesses’ needs for employees today and into the future.

Community members interested in the opportunity can find all the details at or by emailing or calling Kari Gibson in the CTUIR Workforce Development Department at 541-429-7304.     

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