School Bulletin: Drone program takes flight with first pilot

School Bulletin: Drone program takes flight with first pilot

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- One student at Racine’s Horlick High School is soaring to new heights as the first in the aviation program to become a certified drone pilot.

“I wasn’t really nervous,” Jacob Thillemann, a senior says. “Since the beginning of the year we’ve been just going through the drone pilot handbook.”

Horlick’s aviation program launched five years ago, and James Bucholtz, the aviation teacher, says lessons were more focused on the maintenance, mechanics and safety of flying. Now Bucholtz, who was a crew chief in the Air Force, says his students are learning so much more.

“We’re really cross-curricular,” Bucholtz says. “You’ve got history. You’ve got physics, a lot of math. And simply government regulations, how to navigate those. That's a minefield in and of itself.”

Despite the minefield of rules and regulations, Thilemann says he’s had fun ever since joining the aviation program as a sophomore, and a hobby at home has come in handy.

“[Flying a drone] is like a video game just in real life. It is fun just controlling it,” Thillemann says.

Thillemann says his interests have changed too, as the classes have taken field trips to local airports to learn about different jobs available right in Southern Wisconsin.

“There’s a huge shortage [of workers] within aviation right now,” Bucholtz says. “We’re hoping with just our small part, we can fill some of those needs.

Horlick partners with DeltaHawk Engines, based in Racine, and Bucholtz says several students have become interns. He’s also eyeing Amazon as a potential employer for his aviation and drone students.

As for Thillemann, he says he has investigated launching his own business as a drone-pilot for hire. He’s also helping with a large project with the Horlick Class of 1972, who has asked the aviation students to create a video tour of the high school and Racine using the drone.

“My favorite part really is flying – either controlling something in the air or actually being in the air,” Thillemann says.

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