NC high school graduates set to soar in drone industry

A partnership between the state Department of Public Instruction and Zipline paves the way

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, accompanied by U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria Mary Beth Leonard, right, tours an Innovation Exhibition in Nigeria 2021. Zipline and NCDPI have struck up a partnership that prepares high school students for careers in the drone industry. (Andrew Harnik / AP Photo)

RALEIGH — A groundbreaking partnership between the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and Zipline, the world’s largest autonomous delivery service, is paving the way for high school graduates to launch careers in the rapidly expanding drone industry.

The new program, set to begin in the 2024-25 school year, will create a pathway for students to pursue professional careers in Uncrewed Aerial Systems (UAS) operations. More than 60 high schools across North Carolina that offer drone technology courses in their career and technical education departments will participate in the new initiative.


Trey Michael, North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s (NCDPI) director of career and technical education, emphasized the program’s alignment with the state’s educational goals.

“The goal of Career and Technical Education in North Carolina is to open doors to successful and fulfilling careers for our students through exposure and helping them develop academic, technical, and durable skills to use in the workplace,” Michael said in a press release. “This partnership prepares students for a viable career after graduation in a field that is rapidly expanding globally.”

The program offers a unique opportunity for students to gain practical experience and knowledge in drone technology. Participants will study the fundamentals of drones, legal requirements, simulations, drone flight training and mapping, among other essential skills. The program will offer students valuable skills and knowledge but also a direct path to potential employment with Zipline.

To qualify for the program, students must meet several criteria, including successful completion of the UAS pathway program, maintaining a specified GPA, and obtaining a written recommendation from a faculty member. Those who meet these requirements are guaranteed an interview with Zipline upon graduation.

Joseph Marshall, director of flight operations at Zipline, expressed enthusiasm about the collaboration.

“Zipline and NCDPI have set essential program requirements that will offer high school graduates cutting-edge aviation opportunities right after graduation,” said Marshall. “We are confident that the pathway program will attract exceptional candidates and contribute to the advancement of the UAS industry.”

Zipline’s website boasts reaching 1 million deliveries worldwide of medical supplies, food and other products in 2024.

The partnership comes at a crucial time when the demand for skilled UAS operators and flight operations professionals is surging. According to a 2023 report by Market.Us, the drone delivery market is expected to have revenues under $34 billion by 2023.

About A.P. Dillon 1342 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_