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).


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