MACA students obtain certification to fly video-equipped drones  

Three Harlingen CISD Media Arts and Communications Academy students passed exams to become certified by the Federal Aviation Administration to fly drones.  

Alexandria Ramirez, Zimri Martinez, and Sarah Villarreal, all Harlingen High School South graduates, passed tests during the 2018-19 school year to earn certifications. The trio attended the Media Arts and Communications Academy, where Brandon Castellanos, a videographer and TV production technician, introduced them to the basics of flying a video-equipped drone.  

When Castellanos ask the MACA students if they wanted to learn about videography and creativity through the use of drones, the three students quickly signed up.  

“I wanted to raise my hand super quick because I love drone shots, so I wanted to learn how to do that,” said Ramirez, who plans to attend Sam Houston State University to earn a degree and work in the broadcasting and mass communication field.  

Martinez also plans to take a similar path at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley this fall.  

The two college-bound students hope underclassmen interested in the broadcasting industry enroll in classes at the MACA.   

“Practice getting drone certified because drones are becoming a big thing now,” Ramirez said when asked for her message to those in high school interested in video production, film, and broadcasting. “Keep furthering your education.”  

Castellanos, who guided the students through studying for the certification exam, said the students acquired knowledge of air space, weather, and FAA rules.  

 “You’re talking about understanding pilot lingo – all these things you wouldn’t think you would need to know, but you have to know to be able to fly a drone,” he said.  

Castellanos, who works for HCISD’s public relations and community engagement department, has utilized drones in the past and knows its significance to the broadcasting industry from his time working for local TV news.  

“The industry, it’s changing now – even the style of shooting video,” he said, noting that the video shots are a lot more fast-paced than years past to keep viewers interested and engaged.  

Drone footage helps incorporate that type of video production, and the ability to learn from Castellanos was offered for the first time this year through the MACA.  

“When I first came to the MACA, I was very impressed with the facility,” Castellanos said. “I think it’s such an incredible opportunity the kids get here.”  

Both Ramirez and Martinez immersed themselves in opportunities afforded to them during their time as high school students.  

“You see a movie, and you are like, ‘Oh, now I know how they do that,’” Ramirez said. “What we got here at the MACA is a foundation for us to keep building on.”  

The drone certification must be renewed every two years.  

Until then, the two students plan to utilize their current certification to work for businesses in the Rio Grande Valley and Houston. They both received paid opportunities.  

“I am really happy for them,” Castellanos said. “I was really proud of them because it is a tough test.” 

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