By Thomas Gnau
The director of Sinclair Community College’s Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) program believes many uses of remotely piloted airplanes in the next few years will be in the realm of agriculture.
Andrew Shepherd, Sinclair’s director for Unmanned Aerial Systems, presented an overview of the uses of UAS for Ohio’s agricultural future at the Ohio Farm and Food Leadership Forum in Columbus last month, Sinclair said.
Also Monday, Sinclair said its Workforce Development division has inked a teaming agreement with Columbus’ Asymmetric Technologies.
The agreement will allow Sinclair to collaborate on new UAS technologies with Asymmetric through the college’s extensive course curriculum and use of the necessary Certificates of Authorization (COA), needed to legally operate unmanned vehicles under current Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations.
“This agreement allows Sinclair to leverage our subject-matter expertise and access to our COA in a way that will bring new UAS technologies to market,” Deb Norris, vice president for Sinclair Workforce Development and Corporate Services, said in an announcement. “Creating these types of partnerships that have the potential to bring new technologies and jobs to the region is really at the heart of what we’re accomplishing with this program.”
A forecast at the Ohio Farm and Food Leadership Forum estimated that some 80 percent of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) usage in the United States will be related to “precision agriculture” over the next several years, Sinclair said in a statement.
“With nearly 90 percent of the approximately 75,000 farms in Ohio being individually owned, there is a growing need for the type of innovation that UAS can provide,” Sinclair said.
“The potential benefits for employing UAS technologies in precision agriculture is virtually limitless in a state like Ohio, which has an economy that is very reliant on the success of farming, with more than 110,000 people operating farms throughout the state,” Shepherd said in the college’s statement. “Everything from the application of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to examining irrigation effectiveness or pest infestation can be performed quickly and result in improved crop yields with less of an environmental impact.”
Last month, the Federal Aviation Administration did not select Ohio and Indiana as a region for testing the use of drones. Still, Dayton-area leaders have said the area, with its proximity to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, will continue to be a leader in UAS development.
Sinclair offers a one-day course on precision agriculture using UAS. Sinclair has also developed what it says is Ohio’s only UAS short-term technical certificate program, which prepares students for entry-level positions in the industry.