You don’t get the chance to see a drone “up close and personal” very often. But, during a June 14 hand-off ceremony between Del Mar College and U.S. Army III Corps representatives to return a RQ-5A Hunter Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) to Fort Hood, College officials and guests got that chance.
How did the College’s Aviation Maintenance Program get their hands on a UAV?
All the project took was an email sent early last year to aviation programs across the state from the U.S. Army’s III Corps requesting restoration support. DMC’s Associate Professor of Airframe Applied Technology Joseph Dudek grabbed that opportunity for his Aviation Maintenance students to refurbish a UAV, or drone, as they’re commonly called.
“We got the email from Fort Hood, so we responded. Shortly thereafter, we received the UAV,” Dudek says, adding the aircraft arrived without its sensitive hardware so as not to compromise national security.
Beginning last fall, Dudek offered his students the opportunity to volunteer for the refurbishing project. He says that while many students spent time on the Hunter UAV project, four second-year students put in nearly 300 hours working on the drone, including Paul Benavidez, Claudia Bisher, Eric Leonard and John Moczygemba.
“Students performed composite work and painting, and the machine shop manufactured some parts for the landing gear,” Dudek says. “It was a pretty big job.”
James Carter, Logistics Analyst for the III Corps Mission Support Element (MSE) Fort Hood, says that while an exact amount for the work performed by the College’s Aviation Maintenance program students is tough to calculate, the Hunter UAV job could have cost the Army as much as $30,000 for parts and labor.
Moczygemba notes that students focused on different aspects of the project. He was responsible for major bodywork while Benavidez concentrated on structural tasks, such as mounting the propellers. Bisher and Leonard were responsible for most of the paintwork.
“There were all kinds of damage to [the drone], so I had to go in and patch the holes with composite materials, in this case, carbon fiber,” Moczygemba says, adding that his work on the Hunter UAV project was his major assignment for his Airframe Mechanics and Aircraft Maintenance Technology/Technician Practicum course.
As a double major in Aviation Maintenance––Airframe Applied Technology and Aviation Maintenance– Power Plant Applied Technology, Moczygemba says the Hunter UAV project was an opportunity to work on cutting-edge hardware, giving him an advantage over other job applicants following graduation.
“When you try to enter a field like Aviation Mechanics, employers want either experience or the license,” he says. “And the only way to get the license is to accrue experience. Working on a UAV project such as this is a great way to get that experience.”
IN THE PHOTO: College President Dr. Mark Escamilla holds the microphone for Fort Hood representative James Carter as he presents a plaque to DMC Aviation Maintenance majors John Moczygemba and Claudia Bisher. Carter also presented traditional coins for the four students who put in nearly 300 hours of work to refurbish the RQ-5A Hunter Unmanned Aerial Vehicle on loan from the U.S. Army.