Springfield, Ohio-based Clark State Community College has been granted a Certificate of Authorization (COA) for the operation of a SelectTech EH-4 unmanned aerial system (UAS).
Granted by the Federal Aviation Administration, the COA allows the Ohio/Indiana Unmanned Aircraft Systems Center (UASC) to conduct flight operations in support of Clark State’s precision agriculture degree program.
The UAS will fly out of the Springfield Municipal Airport and must remain at or below 400 feet above ground level. The purpose of the flights will be for agricultural crop health assessment.
The aircraft, which will be operated by a licensed pilot, must be deemed airworthy to conduct flight operations and must stay in compliance with all provisions and conditions in the Airworthiness Safety Release. The pilot in command must also conduct a pre-takeoff briefing prior to each launch and maintain direct, two-way communication with air traffic control.
Aimee Belanger-Haas, assistant dean of business and applied technologies at Clark State, explains that the precision agriculture students are focusing on the interpretation of the data as opposed to just the collecting the data and flying the UAS. “There will be many more jobs in data interpretation versus flying,” she says.
The UAS will fly over designated land owned by the City of Springfield but leased to local farmers. It will collect individual images that students will then analyze as part of their coursework. “What the students will learn to do is ‘seam or stitch’ the individual images together to create an orthomosaic,” explains Belanger-Haas.
The data collected from the UAS will be analyzed by students in the precision agriculture program and then shared with the farmers. “We hope to work in concert with them to measure how our suggestions are helping reduce cost and increase yield,” she adds.
The college expects test fights to begin in the spring. The precision agriculture program currently has about 10 students enrolled, but Clark State believes that number will grow with this UAS approval.
“The COA is a huge benefit to our students and industry, because students can now analyze actual data from Ohio farms and have a ‘real world’ application to their program of study,” says Dr. Jo Alice Blondin, Clark State president.