Beginning this fall, agriculture students at Southern Illinois University (SIU) Carbondale will be offered a course on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and their applications.
The course will cover UAV types for agriculture use, maintenance and repair, remote sensing attachments and the use of lens filters for UAV scouting, and the application of data gathered for agricultural use.
Christopher Clemons and Dennis Watson, faculty members in the College of Agricultural Sciences, are preparing the course of study, which they expect will supplement the agricultural systems and education major.
“The most obvious application is for precision agriculture,” Clemons says. “But UAV technology has applications for all our majors.”
SIU says it will be starting out with multi-rotor models, including the 3D Robotics Solo smart drone.
The university notes that the Federal Aviation Administration’s proposed rules for commercial UAVs would require a current aeronautical knowledge test and UAV operator certification.
“We’re reaching out to our SIU aviation program to see if they can help our students take the course that leads to the aeronautical knowledge test,” Watson says.
“We’re developing students and future agricultural professionals who make decisions based on data,” Clemons adds. “We’re still teaching what we call ‘ground truthing’ because there isn’t a substitute for that. But these UAVs will change the scope of agriculture for all of our students. We’re anticipating even that agricultural educators will need to be able to teach UAV technology in high school, and we are taking steps to develop curriculum for secondary agriculture education programs.”
“We’re not going to wait; we’re going to begin preparing our students now,” Watson says. “The technology is here, and it is advancing, and we want our students in the front of it.”
Photo courtesy of Russell Bailey: Watson, left, and Clemons, test fly a 3D Robotics Solo UAV