New Drone Academy aims to boost girls in tech


Image courtesy Dr. Janeen Peretin

A new program at Baldwin High School plans to teach girls aged 16 or older how to fly a drone.

Yariel Morales and Aria Majcher

Only about 8 percent of licensed drone pilots are women. A new program coming to the high school hopes to increase that number. 

The Drone Academy, which will be open to girls in six area high schools, should open many job opportunities while reducing gender disparity in the field by increasing the number of federally licensed female drone operators.

Dr. Janeen Peretin, Baldwin-Whitehall’s director of information and instructional technology, helped plan the program. It will teach high school girls who are 16 years of age or older about drone protocols, allow them to interact with other professionals in the field, and cover the cost of earning FAA drone pilot certification.

While flying personal drones in a park may be satisfactory for some, an FAA license allows users to fly drones for non-recreational purposes. 

“Non-recreational drone flying includes things like taking photos of a high school football game for the school … and acts of goodwill, like volunteering to use your drone to survey an area on behalf of a non-profit organization,” Peretin said. 

Earning drone certification in this program could open opportunities in fields such as photography, weather forecasting, engineering, and agriculture, Peretin said.

“It’s pretty neat,” Peretin said. “With Pittsburgh being such a hub of innovation and technology, there are opportunities for careers and/or jobs right outside of high school – in our backyard.” 

The Drone Academy will be available to any interested sophomore or junior girls who apply.

“It’s a STEM-based program focused on girls,” Peretin said. “I think back to my time and that was me as a student. I always liked math and science, and I think representation absolutely matters.”

The Drone Academy is set to launch in late spring, and will last roughly 12 to 16 weeks. It is being made possible through a $70,000 “Moonshot Grant” through Remake Learning, which aims to reward bold thinking about the future of education.

For the program, Baldwin-Whitehall is partnering with Beaver Area, South Fayette Township, Ambridge, McKeesport, and Woodland Hills.

Interested female students should fill out this form by March 19: