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The Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative dreams about drones

The Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative hopes to build a drone-port and collaborative community workspace atop a coal-mined mountain. In the meantime, it’s offering its 22 member districts courses in fabricating, flying and fixing unmanned aircraft.

“We have these vast areas of nearly wasteland—the ground is unfit for farming and much else as the tops of the mountains were taken off to get at the coal beneath,” says Paul Green, who leads the cooperative’s Appalachian Technology Initiative.

Students at 10 participating schools build drones from scratch to learn how the craft work and how they are controlled by radio frequency technology. Students can also get a basic drone pilot’s license.


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The program is one of four components of the cooperative’s aviation and aerospace curriculum. The cooperative’s mobile classroom is a drone-building lab that’s equipped with virtual reality tools.

Hazard Community and Technical College has also offered space for drone testing. The cooperative plans to use grants to build a tech park at a 100-acre donated property, with the hope that drone technology could provide the economic boost needed to help the region recuperate from the loss of the coal industry.

A drone-testing complex, which would cost about $25 million and feature a 3,500-foot runway, would let regional companies and scientists collaborate on research and testing.

Students, meanwhile, would gain technology skills and a jumpstart on future studies and employment, Green says.