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Gain specialized professional skills to become a drone pilot in this emerging field with application to various industries.
Our Professional Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) program will teach you all aspects of operating drones for commercial use. From agricultural, environmental and industrial monitoring and inspection to emergency response to 3D mapping and beyond, the use of drones for various applications in numerous industries is rapidly evolving.
You’ll learn about the construction and maintenance of drone technology and be trained and licensed according to Transport Canada guidelines for Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems.
You’ll also add value to clients and employers by gaining practical experience with inspections, mapping and the processing of geomatics data performed by Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems and emerging Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations. Understanding these systems will allow you to contribute to business operations by addressing how RPAS and BVLOS can help meet business needs and client demands.
Opportunities in this emerging field are wide-ranging; some of the tasks you’ll be trained to perform include:
- creating basic GIS-ready data outputs
- coordinating RPAS flight operations with various RPAS pilots
- leading RPAS teams in high-risk, complex operations
- carrying out complex image analysis and creating high-level geospatial outputs
- developing policy for RPAS operation at the company or federal level
- ensuring company compliance and site audits
- contributing to your company’s business plan and design.
Following Transport Canada’s overall requirements, the pilot operating the RPAS must:
- not suffer from any condition which would render them unfit to perform their duties
- have visual acuity 20/20 or 20/20 corrected (i.e. use of corrective lenses)
- have sufficient English language ability to be understood by local Air Traffic Control when using VHF radio.
- provide evidence of good health.
The opportunity to advance your education by transferring into this program or gain credit for previous postsecondary courses may be available.
There may also be opportunities to further your education by transferring to another institution once you graduate.
Learn more about program and institution transfer options.
After successfully completing this program, graduates will receive their Professional Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems certificate.
Careers and opportunities
Our graduates may work in the following occupations. Some careers require additional experience and education.
Career counselling and support
Unsure which career path is for you? SAIT offers career planning services to help you decide your future.
You can also get started by taking our online career finder quiz, which can help you narrow down your search based on your current skills and interests.
Finally, you can also head to Alberta alis for various tools and resources, including additional quizzes and labour market information to help you narrow down a career path.Services and workshops
The Professional Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems certificate requires 18 credits (eight courses) to complete.
The program spans 15 weeks or one semester.
In this course, you’ll build on your RPAS mapping knowledge to develop advanced data understanding and interpretation skills. You’ll enhance your photogrammetric skills through the derivation of orthophoto mosaics, digital terrain models (DTM), digital elevation models (DEM) and digital surface models (DSM). You’ll also expand your knowledge of surface development by processing LiDAR data, and run comparisons between photogrammetry and LiDAR data to generate additional products such as tree canopy models and volumetric calculations.
This course introduces you to the mapping process for remotely piloted aerial systems (RPAS). You’ll describe the components of an RPAS, and use specialized software to generate maps to support field operations and create RPAS mission plans. You’ll use global navigation satellite system (GNSS) technology to derive ground control points (GCPs), and you’ll process existing imagery data as well as data you collect during field missions using photogrammetry software.
In this course, you’ll examine the specific regulations and procedures that apply when flying beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) missions with remotely piloted aircraft. You’ll conduct operational risk assessments (ORA), determine the airworthiness of an aircraft and explore the challenges specific to BVLOS environments. You’ll also complete a Transport Canada application package and get hands-on experience preparing for and conducting your own BVLOS missions.
In this course, taken concurrently with RPAS - Professional Operations and Planning, you will use the skills you learn to execute an RPAS mission from planning to completion. As you develop and refine the workflow of a mission, you’ll get hands-on experience in RPAS operations, including multi-rotor and fixed-wing RPAS, under the guidance of experienced operators. Topics include mission planning, dispatch, on-site assessments, operational flight skills, data collection, and post-flight operations. You’ll also learn how to respond to emergency situations. At the end of the course, you will complete Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems - Flight Reviewer based on Transport Canada’s requirements, which allows you to obtain the Pilot Certificate for Small Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (VLOS)-Advanced Operations.
In this course, you’ll build on the skills you learned in ground school and flight school training by focusing on the mechanics and technology of the remotely piloted aircraft itself. As well as assembling a multi-rotor RPA, you’ll configure, test fly and troubleshoot it to validate its flight performance. You’ll also conduct maintenance and servicing tasks on larger RPAS airframes and engines to ensure they are ready for flight. This will include various internal combustion engines, and both fixed wing and helicopter airframes.
This remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) course gives you the professional skills to plan, conduct and complete complex RPAS operations within Canadian airspace. Current and prospective RPAS pilots will learn effective and safe operations that incorporate important mandatory knowledge requirements. You’ll explore a range of topics including Canadian regulations and best practices, site assessments, meteorology and dispatch. You’ll also examine pre-flight, flight operations and post-flight activities and emergency procedures. Finally, the information presented in this course will prepare you to challenge Industry Canada’s Radiotelephone Restricted Operator Certificate-Aeronautical (ROC-A) and TC RPAS Small Advanced exam required by CAR Part IX.
In this course learners are introduced to Visual Testing (VT) methods which allows technicians to locate defects in many materials. Learners work with various equipment and accessories and follow inspection procedures and standards outlined by industry and regulatory groups.
In this course, you’ll use the skills you’ve developed during the program to propose and develop a project pertaining to an aspect of RPAS operations that interests you. You’ll then complete the proposed mission, collect data, analyze the results and report your findings and recommendations to stakeholders.
Students must attain a PGPA and/or a CGPA of 2.0 or better in each semester and pass the necessary prerequisite courses to progress through the program. To qualify for graduation, students must pass all courses, attain a CGPA of 2.0 or better and complete course requirements within the prescribed timelines.
Applicants educated in Canada
All applicants must demonstrate English language proficiency and meet the following requirements or equivalents.
- At least 50% in English Language Arts 30-1 or 30-2 and
- At least 50% in Math 30-1 or 30-2 and
- At least 50% in a grade 12 science course.
SAIT accepts high school course equivalents for admission for applicants educated outside Alberta.
All applicants who were educated outside of Canada must demonstrate English Language proficiency and provide proof they meet the program admission requirements with an international document assessment. Find out what educational documents are accepted and assessment options.
SAIT may also accept courses completed at certain international post-secondary institutions.
Missing an admission requirement for this program? Upgrade your prior education to help you receive admission into one of SAIT's career programs.Upgrade
- Domestic students: Waitlisted
Application deadline: Feb. 23, 2024
- Domestic students: Open
Application deadline: June 28, 2024
2023/24 tuition and fees
The following costs are effective as of July 1, 2023. They are an estimate of tuition and fees based on the recommended course load per year.
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Books are approximately $50 - $150.
This is a bring-your-own-device program with a standard computer hardware and software requirement. See the specific requirements on our computers and laptops page.
Find your booklist on the SAIT Bookstore's website. The booklist will be available closer to the program start date. Can’t find your program or course? The bookstore didn't receive a textbook list. Contact your program directly to determine if they’re still refining course details or if you're in luck; no textbook purchase is required this term.
You'll require a drone build kit, which can be purchased from SAIT for approximately $500 – $1000. This kit will be used to build and understand how all the components of a basic drone work.
A tool list and timeline for purchasing the required items will be provided at orientation.
Required personal protective equipment (PPE)
The industry-approved PPE you'll need will be discussed during orientation.
Paying for your education may feel overwhelming, but we have resources and programs that can help, including information about payment options, student loans, grants and scholarships.Learn more
Ready to apply?
Follow our step-by-step guide to submitting a successful application.Learn how to apply
Communication during admission
Email is the primary source of communication during the selection process. Ensure your personal email account is managed appropriately to receive our emails, files and communications. We recommend you add the email@example.com domain to your safe senders list or you risk missing critical email messages.
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