screen shot of drones on farm youtube video

Here is a video showing how small pro-sumer drones can be used on the farm. The video shows a DJI Phantom 3, but there are similarly sized and priced platforms which would also work. With the lower cost of these smaller platforms, it is fairly easy to have them pay for themselves in just a few flights. Keep in mind, however, that any use that is not strictly for hobby or recreational is considered commercial use by the FAA and the operator will need to have a Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate. For those of you interested in getting certified, Jonathon Rupprecht has put together some great information online: How to Get Your FAA Drone Pilot License (For First-Time and Current Pilots).

drone exhibit booth at OSU
My drone exhibit booth at Oregon State University

I was invited to exhibit and talk about drone technology and research with some high school students visiting Oregon State University today. They were blown away with how small some of the technology has become and had a lot of questions about capabilities. Some of them were creeped out by the fact that some of the small drones had cameras, but were intrigued about how OSU is using drones for research.

Drones I exhibited included a MikroKopter hexacopter, 3DR Solo, DJI Phantom 3 Advanced, Blade Glimpse, Cheerson CX-10 and the World’s Smallest Quadcopter® – the Aerius quadcopter from Aerix.

Here is an interesting fact about the Mikrokopter I exhibited. This multirotor was used to do research on nursery tree inventory and crop management. For more information, you can read this news article from The Oregonian: “Oregon nurseries explore unmanned drone technology to monitor fields”.  You can also watch this Youtube presentation by one of the researchers (and my eXtension UAS in Agriculture Learning Network colleague), Dr. “Jim Robbins: UAS for Plant Count Inventory”.


Another successful drone exhibit at the 2016 Tillamook County Fair on Friday, August 12. I flew my “Little Drone Juan” Cheerson CX-10 in the booth to the delight of those passing by. I had plenty of questions from the public on the legalities of flying drones both commercially and for hobby.

The kids naturally gravitated to the RealFlight R/C simulator and enjoyed trying to fly the virtual octacopter drone in the 3D environment. Some even tried flying FPV (First Person View) style to see if they could fly through the hanger, which some did!

Me_Benny_droneI exhibited at the 2016 Marion County Fair and had a great time talking to kids and adults about drone technology, research and responsible flying. The exhibit was a definite draw for the younger crowd, and several kids kept coming back through out the day. The RealFlight R/C flight simulator was especially popular and allowed the kids to experience what it would be like to fly a drone. The simulator is fairly accurate and does a good job of simulating real flight, which I guess is why they named it that. LOL

I also had the chance to have a selfie taken with Benny Beaver, which is always a treat! 🙂


Here is my outline for my Drones in Agriculture Workshop (90-120 min). Feel free to use any or all of it for your educational activities. I am also available to do this workshop for your group. Contact me for more information.

Old McDonald Has a Drone: UAS in Agriculture Workshop

What is a drone?
– A drone is an unmanned vehicle remotely piloted via radio control
– Also sometimes called: UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System), RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft System)

History of drones (very basic)
Reference video:

Types of drones
– Fixed wing
– Single-rotor (helicopter)
– Multi-rotor
– Hybrid: Fixed wing with multi-rotors. Usually a VTOL (Vertical Take Off and Landing) configuration
– Pros and Cons comparison between platforms

Parts of a drone
– Airframe (body)
– Motors (usually electrical, brushless)
– Propellers
– Battery (Usually LiPO – Lithium Polymer)
– Control System
– ESC (Electronic Speed Controller)
– IMU (Inertial Movement Unit, gyros to help drone stabilize)
– GPS (Global Positioning System)
– Receiver (receives signal from transmitter)
– Transmitter (operated by pilot to control drone remotely)

Basic aeronautical concepts: Lift, Thrust, Drag, Gravity

How do quadcopters Fly? (video)

Examples of drone use in agriculture
– Crop scouting
– Plant stress and health via NDVI
– Mapping
– Inventory (nursery plants)
– Pesticide application (Yamaha R-Max)
– Bio control (dispersion of lady bugs to combat aphids)
– Mass calculation (manure piles, crops piles)

Sensors: NDVI, Thermal, Infrared, Near Infrared, LiDAR, Misc. (pollen, moisture, wind, pressure, etc.)

Rules, regulations and guidelines
Recreational/Hobby (FAA Safety Guidelines)
AMA (Academy of Model Aeronautics) Guidelines. This is where I talk about safety
Educational (FAA interpretation)
CommercialPart 107
CoA (Certificate of Authorization) – for public institutions, such as state universities
BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) limitation and night time flight currently limit big time agriculture use and research
Privacy concerns (a discussion)

STEAM education
DroneSinger songs
INTEL swarm

Flight Training
– R/C flight simulator (RealFlight)
– Manual flight: Cheerson CX-10 nano drones (indoors, and goggles for eye protection)
– Syma X5C/X5SW: lightweight, medium sized quadcopters, easier to fly than the smaller nano drones
– Autonomous programmed flight: programming Parrot Minidrones with Tickle App on iPad

Other resources
Drone Glossary
“Drones in Education” book
eXtension UAS in Agriculture Learning Network

Had a nice mention and photo of my participation in a USDA article about the 2016 USA Science & Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C.

Victor Villegas talks to kids about drone technology and applications
Talking to kids about drones at the 2016 USA Science & Engineering Festival

“Performers included Oregon State University Extension Coordinator Victor Villegas, aka the “The Drone Singer,” who performed a drone-themed song as a drone flew around the conference venue.”