Drone Pilot Coaching for Veterans

The ACEA’s President, Lauren Moore, Jr., introduces US Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) during a hybrid press conference announcing funding for a program to train veterans to become licensed drone pilots in southern New Jersey.

ACEA Receives $150,000 in Funding for Veteran Drone Training Program

by DRONELIFE Staff Writer Ian M. Crosby

The Atlantic County Economic Alliance (ACEA) has received $150,000 in congressional directed funding for a training program helping veterans to become drone pilots and find jobs in the aviation and film industries. The funding was announced during a press conference held at the National Aerospace Research & Technology Park in Egg Harbor Township, NJ.

“Showing gratitude to our veterans means providing them with the support and resources they need to thrive in civilian life,” said Senator Cory Booker, who helped to secure the funding for the program. “I’m proud to secure funding for ACEA’s drone training program to provide veterans with in-demand skills training and job opportunities, as well as strengthen New Jersey’s aviation and film industries.”

The Veterans Film Apprenticeship program was created by filmmaker and drone pilot Lisa Regina, whose company A Write to Heal provides veterans with training opportunities in drone and aviation-related technologies. This new funding will be leveraged to mentor and train veterans to receive their Part 107 commercial drone pilot’s license, as well as help them find work in the film and aviation industries.

“We reached out to Senator Booker’s office a year ago and submitted a request for $150,000 to fund this worthy program that will give vets the training they need to be successful drone pilots,” said ACEA President Lauren Moore, Jr. “We were pleased that this request was fully funded and put those who served on a career path to success as a drone pilot, a position in demand in filmmaking, search and rescue, real estate, and aviation innovation companies, just to name a few of the opportunities.”

Regularly employing drones in her filmmaking, Regina plans to make use of them while producing, “Heroic Episodes,” a television video series about veterans which will be filmed in and around Atlantic City. Some Veterans Film Apprenticeship program participants may be offered opportunities to gain experience through working on the series.

In 2021, A Write to Heal took part in an accelerator program for early-stage aviation-related companies. Administered by the Smart Airport and Aviation Partnership (SAAP), the program is funded by a $1.6M USEDA Innovation Challenge Grant awarded to the ACEA in late 2019.

“We are so proud to see Lisa Regina and Write to Heal come through the SAAP’s Aviation Business Accelerator program and create this opportunity for veterans to take advantage of uncrewed aerial systems technologies to create fantastic career opportunities,” said SAAP Director Carole Mattessich. “Veterans are a principal area of ​​focus for the SAAP and we are confident that participants in the Veterans Film Apprenticeship will find opportunities with the numerous drone companies that have been a part of our accelerator program.”

“The Veterans Film Apprenticeship is a chance for veterans to heal from the traumas of war and assimilate back into civilian life,” said Regina. “I am a drone pilot and I went through the [Part 107 drone license] test; it’s not easy. So, mentoring and support are important. Once they pass the test, they receive their license, but the program doesn’t end there. We want them to be able to make a living, so job placement is a big part of this program. I have many inroads in the filmmaking community and made so many fantastic connections with drone companies thanks to my company’s recent participation in the flightPlan Aviation Accelerator program, so we have lots of ways to help these veterans network and find opportunities for work as a commercial drone pilot.”

Tony-Award-winning actor and Criminal Minds star Joe Mantegna also appeared during the press conference via livestream to voice his support for Regina’s drone/film apprenticeship program.

“This training program is yet another sign of the positive interplay between the ACEA, the SAAP, and the NARTP as we work together to build out the southern New Jersey Aviation Innovation Hub,” said Moore. “The SAAP’s flightPlan Aviation Accelerator program is incubating early-stage aviation businesses like Lisa Regina’s Write to Heal to become thriving participants in the aviation ecosystem here. Some of them might even become tenants at the NARTP, where we have just cleared the ground to begin construction on a second building where aviation companies will make advances in aviation research technologies just steps from the FAA’s William J. Hughes Technical Center and the smart airport testbed at Atlantic City International Airport.”

Moore added that additional training opportunities for veterans will soon be coming to the Aviation Innovation Hub. The ACEA has partnered with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the US Air Force 305th Maintenance Group of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, and Atlantic Cape Community College to co-develop the Aviation Training Academy of the Future (ATAF) at Atlantic City International Airport. Authorization to fund initial design and architectural work on the ATAF was recently approved in the National Defense Authorization Act.

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Ian attended Dominican University of California, where he received a BA in English in 2019. With a lifelong passion for writing and storytelling and a keen interest in technology, he is now contributing to DroneLife as a staff writer.

Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.

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