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About Sgt. Tony Reid

Commercial sUAS Pilot Sgt. Tony Reid has been in the UAV drone industry for 5 years. He received his Part 107 UAS Certification in September 2016. Since then he has trained and deployed with the American Red cross, operating in many missions from Mapping in Hurricane Harvey 2017, to Damage Assessments in Puerto Rico, Hurricane Maria 2018. Recently, Mr. Reid deployed to the grand Bahamas in 2019 for Hurricane Relief. He conducted Damage Assessments in Dorian 2019, which included inspections of buildings, and critical infrastructure such as; bridges, highways, roof inspections and powerlines.

Reid is also Co-Founder, Vice President of Business Development and Drone Instructor for Drone Cadets, a program which exposes and trains drone technology to youths; teaching FAA rules and regulations, repair classes, coding and drone operations. It’s his fervent goal to expose this technology to all Black and Brown communities.

Reid has been active in the United States National Guard for ten years. As part of the STEM Careers Program, which showcases the many STEM Military careers in the National Guard, Mr. Reid has been Certified in sUAS Thermography, EPA 608 certified, TWIC, and BOSEIT Offshore Emergency trained.

What inspired the creation of Drone Cadets?

In 2016 Reid, was a corrections officer at Rikers Island, a jail in New York City, working with incarcerated adolescents 16 to 18 years old. For 8 long years, he witnessed first-hand the plight of young men of color who became the casualties of an environment of poverty, crime, and violence. Many bright young men became ensnared in a life cycle of neglect, drugs, and crime; spending their time either on the street or behind bars. Either place could lead to dangerously grave consequences.

He began to imagine a way out for these young people and decided he wanted to do something to break the chain. It was in August of the same year that the FAA created the first-ever Remote Pilot Certification* for civilian Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs). Reid received his certification in September of 2016 and his drone career took off. He founded DroneTECH UAS and the concept of Drone Cadets was born. He began doing workshops, demonstrations, and hands-on drone flight training for kids. It wasn't long before he was invited into local schools and began helping incorporate drones into their STEM curriculums.

Whenever kids asked about becoming a drone pilot, he talked to kids about the narrow road that they must follow to stay in school, learn and reach success in life.

In 2017 Reid partnered with DroneBlocks to expand his curriculum to include coding. He also began his worldwide mission, bringing drones to hurricane disaster-ridden countries like the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and Curacao. While there he worked to help provide relief, conduct infrastructure inspections, and he brought a needed distraction to children devastated by loss.

He taught them to fly!

In 2018 Reid joined forces with Grace Cantwell of Drone Wonders to teach children in underserved communities to fly drones responsibly. Ms. Cantwell's experience as a marketer and professional development trainer, bringing STEM tech tools to schools, taught her that there was no better tool than drones to engage students. It wasn't long before they realized that together, their unique knowledge, insights, and experience could create a richer, more effective Drone Cadets program than ever before.

The "Tony & Grace Show" soon helped fuel the demand among students, parents, and administrators for further, more comprehensive drone training. New curriculum, missions, activities, and technology were added, and by the end of 2018 Drone Cadets had launched Level 1 and Level 2 followed by Level 3 in January of 2019. By this time Drone Cadets had taught more than a thousand students to code, fly and repair drones. Their unique method of training has been designed to build character by incorporating ethics, responsibility, safety, and teamwork. As students grew in age and knowledge, they were encouraged to pursue a career in drones and offered the option of completing their FAA Remote Pilot Certification through our alliance with Drone Lecture.

How do you define success?

The real success story is about the kids we’ve helped save. We’ve witnessed the power of drones to open doors and change lives. We’ve spoken to grateful moms. We’ve heard from teachers and counselors. Most importantly, we’ve seen the reluctant student suddenly drawn to the center of the activity. We’ve watched the shy student find the courage to lead the class. We’ve witnessed the angry, detached child calm down, think, focus and become engaged, with a learning mindset.

Who knows how many lives could be saved by allowing kids to excel on a path that could lead to a career that provides a living wage, without college?

What has Drone Cadets been working on recently?

In early 2020, the new Drone Cadets partnership was launched to bring scalable drone education to schools, after-school programs, and underserved youth. The onset of COVID-19 accelerated our plans to Go Virtual, and was born to train students virtually, nationwide and around the world. On March 9, 2021 Drone Cadets programs became Accredited by the longest continually-operating, privately-held STEM education research and credentialing organization in America. In April 2021, after teaching virtually for a year, Drone Cadets began teaching IRL (in real life) again, and it feels so good to be back! We're grateful for the time we had to develop new content, and the student response to our new material has been tremendous.

Finally, what does Black History Month mean to you?

Black history means teaching our youth. Educating and inspiring them to be a better version of yourself inspiring the next generation to be sustainable and successful, leaving an impact on a generation to continue to build our community.


Tony Reid was nominated by Grace Cantwell:

Reid saw the high recidivism rates among teens and was moved to make a difference. He founded Drone Cadets to help break the cycle and save lives by exposing underserved communities to drone technology. Today Drone Cadets has helped train thousands of students to become safe, responsible Drone pilots. He helps provide an alternative to the high cost of college through Drone training. As a role model he gives purpose and hope to black and brown students through his energy, service and compassion.

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Yeaaaa! Congratulations and Best Wishes in your Present and Future Endeavors! Salute!

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