Students with Disabilities Explore Aerospace Careers


by Robin Sexauer at the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services

Three organizations teamed up to teach students with disabilities about aerospace careers, specifically uncrewed aircraft systems and uncrewed aerial vehicles or drones.

The Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services, Eastern Shore Community College, and Sentinel Robotics Solutions established needs, goals and guidelines for a week-long program that launched in July to provide basic understanding of uncrewed aircraft systems.

The next “Introduction to Drones: program ran during August at the Community College  and culminated with a drone demonstration by students, who earn a drone of their own and an FAA Recreational USA Safetyy Test completion certificate, which allows them to operate drones recreationally.

Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services Counselor Robin Sexauer said, “I approached SRS because I had so many students interested in “gaming” careers and saw a lot of potential for transferable skills that could create future jobs in drone operation.”

Five students attended the first program and learned how drones are used in the workforce.  The students explored careers such as insurance agents,  realtors, photographers/videographers, linemen, wind tunnel operators, emergency/rescue personnel, law enforcement and medical transporters.  ANEC talked to students about how they use at work and potential job opportunities.

Sentinel Robotics Solutions CEO Peter Bale said, “We are very  anxious to continue our education programs here on the Eastern Shore.  This partnership with DARS and ESCC came together very well and our Director of Aviation Programs Jason Taylor did a magnificent job  of designing and delivering the program to the students.

Students practiced basic flight controls, operating systems and hands-on operation using various drone equipment and flight simulators and learned basic UAS operations, misson planning and FAA drone rules,

At the end of the week, parents and workforce partners attended a demonstration as students showed off their new drone skills and shared what they learned about this career path.

ESCC President Jim Shaeffer said, “We are so pleased to host this one-of-a-kind drone program.  I had the pleasure of watching the students learn to fly the drones and it was amazing how quickly they learn to master the drone.  It is simply wonderful th see the excitement and satisfaction the students felt.”

Scott Hall, ESCC Workforce and Business Solutions Officer stated, “One of the most impressive aspects of this program is that we are not just removing barriers , but creating opportunities for the students to develop tangible skills  they can take into the job market.  They can even leverage these drone operation skills to earn their pilot’s license and start their own business flying drones on a contract basis. “

Additional programs are scheduled for this fall.  This was the first program developed for high school students with disabilities at ESCC and was funded by DARS.  For more information, contact Robin Sexauer at 757-787-5821 or