At Ford Fund, we are excited to highlight some of our incredible Black-owned and Black-led partner organizations. Darryl Bingham's Drone Apprenticeship Program is a Ford Fund nonprofit partner operating out of the Ford Resource and Engagement Center on Detroit's east side. In the coming weeks, stay tuned for more feature interviews with founders and leaders from some of our other deeply impactful partner organizations.
A Conversation with Darryl E. Bingham, The Drone Apprenticeship Program
Q. What's the "why" behind The Drone Apprenticeship Program (DAP)?
The Drone Apprenticeship Program (DAP) is committed to nurturing the next group of new age techies, entrepreneurs, film makers, digital marketers, and the like. DAP was founded in Fall 2017 in Metro Detroit. When we started, drone use was still in its infancy and most individuals only considered the recreational use of drones. Our vision was to provide under-served communities with an opportunity for exposure to a newer technology — one where they could participate in its development and growth.
DAP is leading the charge to engage more diverse populations to participate in drone technology and the multitude of affiliated industries. We provide our students with an educational forum to address the barriers that impede people from entering the industry including access to training and certifications, equipment and maintenance costs, a think tank/incubator community, and real-world experience.
Q. Where did the idea to start The Drone Apprenticeship Program come from?
The idea for the program was hatched during Detroit Multirotor’s drone racing practice. The founder of the team was an adjunct professor who taught at Lawrence Tech University and a video game designer. He was integral in our program development. He advised us on the initial equipment to purchase to teach drone race flying. After two successful racing seasons, we decided to expand our programming to include workforce exposure and development. Since the creation of the workforce development program, we have paid students over $200,000 in earnings through teaching stipends and certified 80 students in Lean Six Sigma.
Q. What accomplishment or milestone are you most excited to share?
In just six years, we’ve accomplished so much. We’ve trained over 800 students, ranging in ages from 10 to 24, and 100% of our students have earned TRUST Recreational Drone Safety Certificates. We established the Drone Workforce Development Program to provide our students with a direct path to internships and externships where they can apply the knowledge they have acquired. One of the more memorable accomplishments, for me, was helping start two student-led businesses.
Q. Can you share one success story that exemplifies the Drone Apprenticeship Program’s impact?
Yes, Nathan (Nate) Howell was a student in our inaugural workforce development class. When Nate joined our program, he was a junior in high school with no clear career focus. He was contemplating pursuing a skilled trade. Although pursuing a trade was a great opportunity, it was not something Nate was passionate about.
Nate found his voice and his passion in cinematography while participating in our Workforce Development Program. During Nate’s senior year in high school, he launched NMotion Filmmaking, a film making company specializing in sports and music marketing. He identified the best local academic program for film studies at Grand Valley St. University and enrolled. Nate is currently a sophomore at Grand Valley St. University and has already built an impressive client roster across the two industries. He is also working in collaboration with DAP to develop social media content for the Stadium & Main Foundation, Inc., a non-profit NIL (Name, Image, Likeness) collective supporting all of the athletes of the 29 sports affiliated with the University of Michigan. It’s incredible to see what our students do with the knowledge they gain from our program.
Q. How does someone interested in joining the Drone Apprenticeship Program get started?