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WIU Departments Collaborate for Virtual Classes for Emergency Responders and Educators

April 12, 2021

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MACOMB, IL – Earlier this month, Western Illinois University's Emergency Management program collaborated with the Emergency Operation Center Project (ILETSBEI) and the WIU GIS Center to offer two virtual classes to emergency responders and educators.

The mission of the classes was to provide unmanned Aerial System (UAS) certification by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which is mandatory for practitioners and students to be allowed to operate drones and drone-related technology in any professional operations in the area of public safety, from natural disasters, emergencies, to search and rescue.

More than 50 students, from local emergency management agencies, police departments, fire departments, the Illinois State Police, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, and WIU faculty and students, attended the two classes.

"Thanks to the collaboration at WIU, and financial assistance from the Illinois Terrorism Task Force, we were able to offer this vital training that will serve to equip our region with cutting edge technology," said one attendee from Fulton County.

The combination of GIS and UAS provides unparalleled, situational awareness, and life-saving capabilities in emergency response situations. Furthermore, the combination of these two technologies drastically improves emergency operations planning and preparedness for both natural and man-made disasters, in addition to pandemic response, mitigation and recovery.

"Through the leadership of the WIU GIS Center and Director Chad Sperry, WIU has taken a bold step in advancing our regional and statewide capability to harness these two technologies to better serve our citizens," said Eric Arnold from the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board (ILETSB) Executive Institute. "With funding provided by the Illinois Terrorism Task Force and the WIU School of Law Enforcement and Justice Administration, WIU has taken the first step in harnessing the full potential of both technologies by providing cutting-edge training for active duty first responders, as well as WIU students. All those that completed this preparatory training will now be better equipped to successfully obtain their Federal Aviation Administration Part 107 License for UAS and be able to legally operate a UAS in first responder and emergency management operations. The end goal is to harness technology to enhance our ability to prepare for, respond to, mitigate, and recover from disasters."

Preparations are underway for additional classes for these students, as well as other existing pilots, with a focus on emergency management and public safety. Topics being considered include basic and advanced flight school, search and rescue, 3D mapping and orthophoto production, indoor operations, school and campus safety, tactical support, disaster response, FAA waivers, HASMAT, current trends and future applications, damage assessment, recurrent training, building teams and regional collaboration and homeland security.

For more information on Western's School of LEJA, visit For more information on WIU's Emergency Management program, visit

Posted By: WIU News (
Office of University Relations