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FAA Chooses Northern New Mexico College to Host Droning On! Southwest Edition

Free Sept. 21 – 23, 2023, event will include educational activities, a public service day and a Drodeo!

Have you ever wanted to fly a drone or learn about careers in drones? Would you like to see drones barrel racing at a Drodeo? Are you a drone pilot wanting more information about safety procedures or FAA regulations? Then make plans to attend “Droning On! Southwest Edition” Sept. 21 – 23, 2023, at Northern New Mexico College (NNMC) Center for the Arts, 921 N. Paseo De Onate, Española, N.M. This three-day event, hosted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Southwest Regional Office and Northern New Mexico College, is free and open to the public.

“The FAA has a long, successful history of safely bringing new technologies into aviation. We are committed to safely integrating drones into our national airspace system,” said Rick Breitenfeldt, FAA spokesperson.

“As of September 2023, there are almost 864,000 registered drones; of those, about 506,000 drones were identified for recreational purposes and 352,000 drones were registered for commercial purposes. To put this into context, there are more than three times as many registered unmanned aircraft as registered traditional aircraft. By 2026, we forecast that there could be up to 2.66 million commercial and recreational drones and more than 361,000 certificated remote pilots.”

The FAA’s nine regional offices within the U.S. are expanding outreach with in-person events to highlight the societal, economic and educational benefits of drones for the general public. Each region is hosting a Droning On! event, and NNMC has been chosen as the location for the Southwest Region. The FAA wanted to come to a community like Española, which has deep connections to the film industry and strong ties to science and high-tech institutions.

"This exciting event is a wonderful way to showcase both the educational value and the fun in drone technology, and we are grateful to the FAA for partnering with Northern to put it on for the community," said President Hector Balderas. "Northern has a history of supporting student success in the drone technology space, and we are excited to continue building interest in this and all STEM fields to create educational and career pathways for students and community members."

Day one of the three-day event will be focused on education, looking at both droning careers and post-secondary drone programs. The second day will be geared toward pilots, with information on public safety, FAA regulations and government best practices and resources.

The Drodeo On! Day three is the brainchild of NNMC Associate Professor David Lindblom, who was inspired by watching barrel racing on the TV show, “Yellowstone.” He thought, what if the drones themselves were barrel racing? He attended a live rodeo in Abiquiu to experience barrel racing first-hand and could picture the thrill of watching seasoned pilots maneuver the course and what a great experience it would be for beginners trying their hand with trained pilot coaches at their side.

“New Mexico is a big rodeo place. This is fusing drones and our rodeo culture. It’s a way for the community to enjoy our campus and be introduced to drone technology,” Lindblom said. “Rodeo also has a carnival aspect to it. The Drodeo will be a celebration of people having fun and also learning stuff.”

Rodeo de Santa Fe is providing barrels for the event.

Case-Hofmeister and Lindblom worked closely with the FAA on the logistics of bringing Droning On! to campus. They see the event as a way to expand the department’s commitment to connecting the arts and sciences.

“We’re on top of the meshing of art and tech,” Lindblom said. “We’re teaching students to film in a variety of ways, including many that are important to science. In fact, we offer a course on filmmaking and science. A strong part of our program is connecting the possibilities.”

Northern no longer has a drone program, but it does offer courses in drone technology. The Northern Stewards Summer Internship Program also employs drone technology.

Drone demonstrations will happen each day of the event and attendees can participate in hands on activities. There will be opportunities to talk with professionals about drones and learn about their many uses.

Admission to the event is free and open to the public. Those interested in attending can register at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/droning-on-southwest-edition-registration-602685878687. Please note that there may be additional costs for lunch.

Northern offers over 50 bachelor's, associate and certificate programs in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math); Nursing and Health Sciences; Liberal Arts and Humanities; Arts, Film & Media; Business Administration; Teacher Education and Technical Trades.
Northern New Mexico College is the most affordable 4-year college in the Southwestern US. Choose us for our value, our quality degree and continuing education programs in diverse areas of study, and our experienced faculty. We provide students with unique opportunities for academic, personal, and professional growth, small class sizes, personalized attention, and strong hands-on experiences from day one.
The Northern Foundation remains committed to stimulate leadership, promote equity, and grow resources and philanthropy in the Española Valley and surrounding rural areas. Over the past twenty years, we have granted $1.3 million to support over 1,250 NNMC students.