Clark State Community College has initiated flying Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) as part of their new precision agriculture program. The new program is designed to prepare students for employment with companies using geospatial technologies, including geographic information systems (GIS) and global positioning systems (GPS) applied to agricultural production or management activities, such as pest scouting, site-specific pesticide application, yield mapping or variable-rate irrigation.
“Precision agriculture is expected to be among the largest uses of UAS technologies, and Clark State is now preparing its students for employment in this emerging industry,” said Dr. Jo Alice Blondin, president of Clark State. “A farmer’s livelihood depends on knowing what is going on in their fields. UAS technologies can provide them valuable insight and knowledge,” according to Aimee Belanger-Haas, dean of Business and Applied Technologies at Clark State.
The initial flight operations were conducted in Springfield over designated farm fields with an EH-4 small quadcopter flying below 400 feet. The EH-4 was developed by SelectTech Geospatial located in Springfield, Ohio. “This was as close to a perfect mission as I have witnessed,” according to Frank Beafore of SelectTech. The UAS collected sensor data over the fields, and Clark State will process and analyze this data as part of their precision agriculture program. Students will learn how to fly and use UAS-gathered data to determine the overall health of crops and manage a range of farming issues, including how to spot early diseases, identify specific pest infestations and determine fertilization requirement.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved the Certificate of Authorization (COA) for the Ohio/Indiana Unmanned Aerial Systems Center (UASC) earlier this year. The OH/IN UAS Center is working to expand the number of FAA-approved Certificates of Authority for research across Ohio and currently operates 11 COAs in support of public entities and universities with an additional 17 COAs pending at the FAA. “It is exciting to see Clark State begin to train students in precision agriculture and using UAS as the scouting platform for the future,” said Dick Honneywell, executive director of the Ohio/Indiana UASC. “The State of Ohio is preparing a workforce to work as crop scouts in the rapidly evolving field of precision agriculture. This is a significant step forward for the agricultural community in the State of Ohio as well as the UAS industry.”
The UAS market is projected to be an $82 billion industry with a potential to create approximately 100,000 jobs over the next 10 years.
The OH/IN UAS Center is a joint venture between the states of Ohio and Indiana. The overall mission of the UAS Center is to advance UAS commercialization and support flight operations for government and agencies. It offers a mix of services and a variety of test ranges and capabilities to support research, development, testing and evaluation of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) technologies for businesses, government and academia. These activities will enhance economic development and place Ohio in a leadership role as the Federal Aviation Administration prepares to integrate UAS in to the National Airspace System.