The Office of Workforce and Lifelong Learning's Drone Academy is a five-module, non-credit program geared towards both enthusiastic hobbyists and working professionals who are interested in gaining the knowledge and skills needed for drone operation, aerial photography and videography, FAA-certification exam preparation, and computational photography and 3D mapping.

Each module can be completed as a stand-alone option, and participants can customize the program to their particular areas of interest. Some modules have prerequisites, which are listed in the descriptions below. Participants who complete all five modules will gain a strong understanding of safe drone aviation, will be prepared to successfully pass the FAA exam, will learn the best practices for making quality aerial stills and videos using Photoshop and Final Cut Pro, and learn how to use Px4d software for landscape mapping and 3D modeling.

To receive the Full Drone Academy discounted price, sign up for Introduction to Landscape and 3D Modeling, Drone Photography and Videography Part I, Drone Photography and Videography Part II, and FAA Test Preparation. Next, email to receive a discount code worth $255 towards the Safe Drone Operator class, bringing the full price of the Drone Academy to $995.

Program Descriptions

Safe Drone Operator

In this 8-hour module, participants will learn the fundamentals of drone components and terminology, and will receive hands-on experience to become acquainted with the proper techniques in safe Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) flying and remote control (RC) commands. Participants will learn basic flight training and patterns, safe environmental conditions for flight, and automated drone functions. Each class will include hands-on experience with a University-owned drone.

UAS logo

Saturday, September 7, 2024 at 8 a.m. - 12 p.m.
Classroom (Morrill 108), outdoors

Saturday, September 14, 2024 at 8 a.m. - 12 p.m
Classroom (Morrill 108), outdoors

Drone Pilot FAA Test Preparation

In this five-hour module, the instructor will provide an overview of the material for the FAA’s “Airman Knowledge Test”. This will include the basics of legal and safe UAS flight, weather considerations, review of the National Airspace and Aeronautical Charts through lecture and online supplements, and sample questions that have been used on the FAA test. Following the conclusion of the class, each participant will receive access to supplemental materials that will help them continue preparing for the FAA test.

Wednesday, September 11, 2024 at 6:30 – 9 p.m.
Synchronous Online (WebEx)

Wednesday, September 18, 2024 at 6:30 – 9 p.m.
Synchronous Online (WebEx)

Drone Photography and Videography – Part 1

In this six-hour module, participants will review camera controls and settings on a UAS and learn the flight techniques that will achieve the best aerial photographs and videos. UAS cameras will be compared by resolution, sensors, and settings to demonstrate different capabilities. Participants will also receive an introduction to Photoshop using provided photography and an introduction to video acquisition and Final Cut Pro software.  (Pre-requisite: Safe Drone Operator or prior experience flying drones)

Saturday, September 21, 2024 at 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Classroom (Morrill 108), outdoors

Wednesday, September 25, 2024 at 6:30 – 9:30 p.m. 
Classroom (Buley 206)

Introduction to Landscape and 3D Modeling

In this 3-hour module, participants will be introduced to computational photography and mapping as it relates to drones - Landscape and 3D Modeling using Structure from Motion (SfM) software with imagery acquired via UAS. SfM image capture techniques, processing, and product use will be covered.

Wednesday, October 2, 2024 at 6:30 – 9:30 p.m. 
Synchronous Online (WebEx)

Drone Photography and Videography – Part 2

In this six-hour module, participants will learn how to capture photos, videos, and cinematic shots while performing intermediate flight techniques. Participants will learn about the camera controls and automated RC features that will allow them to enhance their aerial photography and videography. Participants will also learn more advanced skills in Photoshop and Final Cut Pro using some of the photographs and videos they have captured in class. (Pre-requisite: Drone Photography and Videography – Part 1)

Saturday, October 5, 2024 at 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Classroom (Morrill 108), outdoors

Wednesday, October 9, 2024 at 6:30 – 9:30 p.m.
Classroom (Buley 206)

Drone over SCSU


The total cost of the program is: $995
Module pricing is as follows:

  1. Safe Drone Operator $350
  2. Drone Pilot FAA Test Preparation $250
  3. Drone Photography and Videography (Part 1) $250
  4. Drone Photography and Videography (Part 2) $250
  5. Introduction to Landscape and 3D Modeling $150

Refund Policy

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Payment Methods

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Jonathan Elmer

Jonathan Elmer

Mr. Jonathan Elmer is a current adjunct faculty member in the Journalism Department of the School of Arts & Sciences at Southern Connecticut State University and has been an FAA-certified drone pilot since 2016. He was a member of the inaugural class at the Drone Journalism Workshop at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln in 2016.

Prior to transitioning into academia, Mr. Elmer had a successful 20-year career as a photojournalist, splitting time equally at the world headquarters of the Associated Press and Bloomberg News in New York City. During his tenure at Bloomberg News, Mr. Elmer was the photo assignment editor for the Americas and worked as a multimedia producer. Prior to that, he worked at the Associated Press, where he created the International Business Photo Desk.

Following his tenure at AP and Bloomberg, Mr. Elmer began teaching video, photojournalism, and visual communication at the college level.  During his time at Washington State University in Pullman at the Edgar R. Murrow College of Communication, Mr. Elmer integrated the use of drones into his “Video for the Web” class and assisted students with drone videography projects. He then began working at Louisiana Technical University where he was the faculty adviser for all student media and initiated the online publication of the student newspaper and magazine.

Mr. Elmer received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photojournalism from the Rochester Institute of Technology and his Master of Arts in Journalism from The Ohio State University. 


Darryl Nicholson

Darryl Nicholson

Darryl “DJ” Nicholson, is an FAA-certified pilot, and adjunct professor at Southern Connecticut State University.  DJ started his private pilot’s license when he was 17 in 1987. In 2001, he joined the Navy and was part of an F-18 squadron. There they encouraged him to finish his license which he did in 2006. In 2019 he received his Instrument pilot rating and in 2022 he received his Commercial Pilot certificate. He is currently pursuing a Certified Flight Instructor license. Flying is part of who he is.

In 2012 he became a CT certified teacher, completing his master’s degree, and 6th year degree at SCSU. While at SCSU he became interested in drone technology and drone photography.  In 2016 he received his part 107 commercial drone license and started a real estate drone business,  Aeolus Aerial, with his son Tim. 

When he is not flying planes and drones, DJ works as a high school science and engineering teacher at Newtown High School, where he shares his love of flying with his students.  DJ is an adjunct professor, teaching drone applications for the Journalism and the Environment Geography and Marine Sciences departments.


Jacob Zonderman

Jacob Zonderman

Jacob Zonderman, is an adjunct professor in the Journalism Department at Southern Connecticut State University. As an FAA Part 107 sUAS license holder and drone operator, Zonderman teaches SCSU’s basic drone classes, and in the public Drone Academy. He is a freelance multimedia journalist, audio production specialist and musician. His reporting and photos have been published in the New Haven Register, New Haven Independent and other small local papers. He holds a Bachelor of Music in Audio and Music Production from Western Connecticut State University, and a Master of Science in Journalism from Quinnipiac University, where he was the recipient of the Faculty Award for Academic Excellence for his capstone project, “New Haven—Connecticut’s Safe Haven for Undocumented Immigrants,” and his reporting on refugees. Before joining SCSU as an adjunct professor, he worked as the University Assistant helping students and faculty on projects utilizing the department’s technology and gear. 

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