Leading Dutch secondary vocational school MBO College Airport wants to develop into a fully fledged recruitment centre for the drone industry and companies that use drones in their business activities. Accordingly, in early 2021, the school will move its drone activities to Unmanned Valley – the field lab for sensor technologies and applications at the former Valkenburg naval air base, 16 kilometers north of The Hague in the Netherlands. From the school year 2022-2023, a generic three-year drone course will start. This makes MBO College Airport the first secondary vocational college to offer such a course.
MBO College Airport, part of the Regional Education Center of Amsterdam-Flevoland, has been training students in aircraft technology since 1936. Since 2017, students have been able to specialise in drone technology and applications through optional modules. Every year, some 200 students follow these courses in aircraft technology, ICT application development and media.
Recently MBO College Airport has also been certified by the government as a Registered Training Facility1) and ROC Operator. This means that the school is authorised to train students to become professional drone pilots and to carry out commercial assignments, including experimental drone operations.
Unique training opportunities
“Drones have become indispensable in many sectors and the number of innovative drone applications will increase significantly in the coming years. We are already seeing a growing need for well-trained professionals and accordingly want to further develop our current training activities into a fully fledged publicly funded three-year drone course, the first in the Netherlands. Because of its aviation orientation, MBO College Airport is ideally suited to give shape to this course,” says Ivo van Oosterhout, Director of Operations & Innovation at MBO College Airport.
“We are strongly committed to co-creation so that students have the best qualifications when they graduate. The step to Unmanned Valley thus makes sense, and I expect that our drone training will receive an enormous boost. The possibilities here are unique: cooperation with various players in the chain, linking theory and practice, everything around designing, building, programming and maintaining drones, and being able to perform drone operations. Our training will become more relevant, realistic and challenging and by extension contribute to the social acceptance of professional drone use.”
MBO graduates essential for developing drone innovations
“MBO College Airport expressly seeks cross-pollination and interaction with the professional field. Teachers and students want to be part of the latest technological developments and applications. With the arrival of MBO College Airport, we are broadening the connection with public training and bringing the employees of the future here. That is good for the Unmanned Valley ecosystem and the Dutch drone sector,” says Theo de Vries, programme manager at Unmanned Valley.
“Innovation happens where people meet, stimulate and cooperate with each other. Well-educated MBO graduates are of great importance in this respect. With their heads and hands, they can make a major contribution to the power of innovation. On the one hand by their contribution to the development of innovative technologies and applications and on the other by getting to work on innovative drone applications in all kinds of sectors.”
Unmanned Valley is an initiative of Delft University of Technology and the municipality of Katwijk. It has been made possible by the Dutch central and regional government as well as the EU’s European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The first companies, all active in aerospace, drones and sensors, have already moved to Unmanned Valley. In time, Unmanned Valley should grow into a seedbed for high-tech activity.
1) At present 7 companies are recognised by the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (ILT) as Registered Training Institutions (RTF). MBO College Airport is the only secondary vocational school that is RTF-certified.