Into the Future

Local Civil Air Patrol Units Begin Drone Training

Civil Air Patrol Falcon Squadron

Excited members of several local Civil Air Patrol Units gathered at JFK Airport early on a crisp morning in October ready, no… anxious, to take their first steps into the future of aerial reconnaissance and search and rescue. They were there to begin training to fly miniature drones or as they are called officially, Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS).

Civil Air Patrol (CAP), the official auxiliary of the United States Air Force, has been in the business of aerial reconnaissance since the beginning of World War II when the organization first flew anti-submarine patrols.

Through the years, as technology has improved, and the missions changed, CAP has continually upgraded and updated their reconnaissance  tools. Until recently CAP has always relied on their fleet of 560 small aircraft to accomplish their missions but in 2016 CAP began to develop their sUAS program. Testing and training were accomplished in 2017 and 2018 and now the sUAS Program is ready to fly.

The sUAS Training Course was taught by Civil Air Patrol Lt Col Tom Vreeland, who is the New York Wing UAS Program Director, and was attended by 25 members from units based in NYC, Long Island and Westchester. The students learned all about the rules and regulations regarding drone flying (particularly challenging in the NYC area), how to get certified, and how, where, and when, to get “stick time” or hands on flight time, and how to get mission qualified. They also learned how to bring others into the program and to train them.

Civil Air Patrol has already used their drones to accomplish Search and Rescue missions, Photo Reconnaissance missions, and Homeland Security missions. Meanwhile, the capabilities of the program are continuously being expanded. CAP Drone Pilots have been deployed on missions to the Carolinas, Florida, Puerto Rico and Arizona already, with more to come.

One class member couldn’t help but say, “This is really exciting!” 

Since Civil Air Patrol is an all volunteer organization, there are no mandatory deployments. For more information about Civil Air Patrol, contact our recruiting and retention officer here at JFK, Captain Billy Metallinos at or you can look around on your own at our unit website or at our national website  All are welcome. I hope to see you soon.

Civil Air Patrol, the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is a nonprofit organization with 58,000 members nationwide. CAP performs 90 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and was credited by the U.S. Air Force with saving 155 lives in fiscal year 2018. Its volunteers also perform homeland security, disaster relief and counterdrug missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. The members play a leading role in aerospace education and serve as mentors to more than 25,000 young people currently participating in CAP cadet programs. CAP has been performing missions for America for 67 years. For more information, visit


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