UAVs Help Higher Education Climb to New Levels at SIU

John DavisAgribusiness, UAV

AG DroneSouthern Illinois University Carbondale students are taking higher education to another level. According to this news release, beginning this fall, agriculture students at the school will have the opportunity to learn about the next game-changing agricultural tool – unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Christopher Clemons and Dennis Watson, faculty members in the College of Agricultural Sciences, are preparing a course of study to help SIU students become leaders in the newest agricultural technology.

Beginning this fall, students can take a course introducing them to unmanned aerial vehicles and applications, including learning about UAV types for agricultural use; maintenance and repair; remote sensing attachments and use of lens filters for UAV scouting; and operating and application of the data gathered for agricultural use. Clemons and Watson expect the course of study will supplement the agricultural systems and education major.

“The most obvious application is for precision agriculture,” Clemons said. “But UAV technology has applications for all our majors.”

UAVs have become a very popular tool in precision agriculture, as they help gather vital data from fields. Most of the discussions about unmanned aerial vehicles and agriculture center on precision agriculture. Precision agriculture uses global positioning system (GPS) and other data to allow farmers to manage smaller units within their fields, enabling them to customize fertilizer, water and disease-control for the areas of the field that need it.

Right now, most unmanned aerial vehicles intended for agricultural use are data-gatherers, but some proposed government regulations could make them harder for farmers to use. The FAA’s proposed rule calls UAV operators “pilots” and requires a current aeronautical knowledge test and unmanned aerial systems operator certification. SIU officials in the ag department are working with the school’s program to see if they can help the students take the course that leads to the aeronautical knowledge test.