Southern Connecticut State University’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 is able to be completed as a stand-alone option and participants can customize the program depending on their particular areas of interest. Some modules have pre-requisites, which are listed below in the descriptions. 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.

*Coronavirus Safety Precautions*

The university is focused on ensuring a safe educational experience for everyone. As a result, the SCSU Drone Academy program has shifted to a hybrid format where some in-class sessions have been transitioned to an online format.  Class modules with extensive hands-on flight time and required computer software will continue to take place on campus with proper safety precautions and social distancing in place.  Please be sure to follow all health and safety recommendations to protect yourself and others. 

Prior to attending each on-campus session, please be sure to monitor yourself for the following symptoms: cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, muscle aches, headache, chills/shaking, lost sense of smell/taste, and fever greater than 100.0°F. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please contact us via the email address below and stay home.  The safety of all participants is paramount and pro-rated refunds will be provided.  

The university will provide face coverings and gloves to all participants which will be required to be worn at all times in campus buildings. Other locations may be added as conditions warrant.  The university will ensure that students are able to maintain the recommended physical distance from others, even when face coverings and masks are in use. More information will follow as we approach the start date of the program. 


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.

Class Sessions – On Campus

Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021 at 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021 at 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Morrill Hall - Room 108 and 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.

Class Sessions - Synchronous Online/WebEx

Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021 at 6:30-9 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021 at 6:30-9 p.m.


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)

Class Sessions - On Campus

Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021 at 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021 at 6:30-9:30 p.m.

Saturday: Morrill Hall - Room 108 and outdoors
Wednesday: Morrill Hall - Room 205


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)

Class Sessions - On Campus

Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021 at 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021 at 6:30-9:30 p.m.

Saturday: Morrill Hall - Room 108 and outdoors
Wednesday: Morrill Hall - Room 205


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.

Class Sessions - Synchronous Online/WebEx

Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021 at 6:30-9:30 p.m

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

Students who wish to withdraw from a module or the entire Drone Academy program must submit a formal request to Ms. Manpreet Sachdeva, by email or telephone. Refunds will vary depending upon the timing of the request as follows:

  • To receive a full refund (100%) of the program fees, students must request a formal withdrawal at least five (5) business days prior to the start of the class.
  • To receive a 50% refund of the program fees, students must request a formal withdrawal anytime between four (4) business days prior to the class up until the official start time.
  • Students will not receive a refund once the class has officially started.

Payment Methods

Students have the option to pay by credit card* through the registration and payment portal by clicking on the Register Now button or may arrange to pay by check through the Office of the Dean of Graduate and Professional Studies. For payments by check, please contact Manpreet Sachdeva for instructions. All payments must be received prior to the start of each module.
* Credit card transactions are currently assessed a 2.75% non-refundable convenience fee, and we accept American Express, Discover, MasterCard, and Visa.



Scott Graves


Scott Graves

Professor Graves is an FAA-certified drone pilot in the School of Arts & Sciences' Department of the Environment, Geography and Marine Sciences. As a faculty member, he specializes in Coastal Geomorphology, Wetlands and Beaches and Coastal Forest research as well as computational Aerial imaging (Structure from Motion). In his earlier tenure at SCSU, Dr. Graves research focused on science education, and he coordinated the Science Teacher Certification Program. Currently, Dr. Graves teaches both Geography and Environmental Science courses at undergraduate and graduate levels. During the past five years, Dr. Graves has engaged in µUAS/drone aerial imaging and mapping, employing novel Structure from Motion software to create digital surface models and orthomosaics of landscapes, seascapes, and other phenomena from the microscopic to hectare-size scapes. He has published a number of journal articles, a book chapter and many conference presentations on the use of UAS/drones for landscape and habitat mapping. Dr. Graves received his Ph.D. from the University of Idaho, an M.S. in Oceanography/Marine Geophysics from the University of Rhode Island, and his B.S. from the University of California at Santa Cruz in Earth Sciences/Geology.


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. 


Contact Us

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