Drone Technology in Agriculture

Agricultural Drones

 

GeoTEd-UAS member Fred Coeburn and students in the sUAS (small Unmanned Aircraft Systems) program at Mountain Empire Community College are using drone technology to plant seeds at Rowlett Farm near Jonesville, Virginia.

Students in the course titled “sUAS On-Site Training” are using a special agricultural drone, a DJI Agras MG-1P, to disperse the seeds. The drone has two different farming attachments, a liquid tank with two pumps which can hold 10 liters of liquid used for pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or fertilizers and a spreader hopper which can hold up to 22 pounds of solids.

At Rowlett Farm, students weighed the Tall Fescue seeds, used to thicken the grass coverages and increase next year’s yield, before pouring them into the drone which uses a variable speed rotating disk.

When the Rowlett Farm project is completed, over 60 acres will have been seeded using drone technology.

Mountain Empire Community College offers an Associate in Applied Science degree in sUAS Operations Technical Studies. Learn more about the program here: https://www.mecc.edu/drone/

GeoTEd-UAS 2019 Spring Mini-Institute

VCU Rice Rivers Center.

The GeoTEd-UAS 2019 Spring Faculty UAS Mini-Institute was held May 21 – 23 at Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU) Rice Rivers Center in Charles City. Eleven faculty from six different colleges, one high school teacher and six instructors came together for hands-on training in using unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Virginia colleges represented at the event included Thomas Nelson Community College, Tidewater Community College, Mountain Empire Community College, Virginia Tech, Blue Ridge Community College, Virginia Highlands Community College, Dabney S. Lancaster Community College, Germanna Community College, Southwest Virginia Community College and John Tyler Community College.

The GeoTEd-UAS team and faculty worked with VCU scientists and researchers interested in acquiring aerial imagery and data on the Rice Rivers Center property. A special focus for most of these UAS missions was on a ‘reclaimed’ tidal wetland associated with several different research projects.

The imagery collection efforts will be used to support VCU research designed to assess the ecological succession (changes in vegetation, etc. over time) in the tidal wetland. Researchers wanted to acquire high quality baseline imagery of the wetland so that they can compare imagery captured in the future.  In addition, they were interested in determining different types of vegetation that currently grows in this area and proof of concept for using UAS to identify the shoreline.

VCU Center staff were also concerned about the status of solar panels located at the research boat dock. Faculty used a thermal sensor (see photograph) mounted onto a quadcopter to determine that at least three solar cells were not functioning properly.

By leveraging a research vessel operated by a Thomas Nelson Community College faculty participant, the cohort also demonstrated a proof of concept using side-scan sonar to detect subaquatic vegetation. Faculty participants planned and operated the missions with guidance and support from the project leadership team.

The GeoTEd-UAS faculty cohort planned and completed more than 20 different missions collecting thousands of images and video from UAS and the side-scan sonar. The faculty processed the imagery using UAS software and generated a number of products including orthomosaic basemaps at both high and low tides, plant health maps, elevation maps, and other products.

The images and a preliminary analysis were presented to the VCU Center Director and staff. All images and products will be delivered to the Center Director for further analysis and to help inform future planning and decisions.

Since GeoTEd-UAS began, nine colleges are now offering UMS courses and 320 students have enrolled in UMS courses. Three Career Studies Certificates and one Associates Degree have been created.

Drone Testing for Upcoming Workshop

Virginia Commonwealth University Rice Center drone mapping

On Tuesday, the GeoTEd-UAS leadership team flew several UAS missions at the VCU Rice Center to gather data in preparation for the upcoming faculty workshop.

During the workshop, faculty will conduct real UAS missions to support the data collection needs of the Center while expanding their own experience and training in conducting service learning missions. Potential flights for the workshop include an aerial shoreline vegetation mapping, solar panel examination, mapping the entire property, and using side scan sonar from the boat to “image” vegetation to determine vegetation health.

The Virginia Tech GeoTED-UAS Mini Institute will be held May 21-23 at the VCU Rice Center outside of Williamsburg. Workshops in the previous three years have focused on classroom training with basic hands-on learning. This year, the fourth and final session, will be the capstone of GeoTED-UAS.  Faculty will gain experience with a series of real-world sUAS operations designed to collect mapping and video data of the wetlands and riverbank habitat on the Rice Center property.  The participants will be tasked with all aspects of sUAS missions, from flight planning, to mission execution, and ending with data processing.  Throughout the entire process, we will be approaching this course with an eye to the safety application of sUAS technology in all stages of sUAS operation.

Mapping with Drones

In partnership with the GeoTEd-UAS project, the College of Natural Resources and Environment and the Virginia Geospatial Extension program at Virginia Tech recently coordinated and offered two workshops.

The Mapping with Drones workshops helped attendees learn how to operate unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).  This 3-day workshop offered in Blacksburg, VA and Richmond, VA attracted 28 participants from four states.  The participants represented an array of organizations including educational institutions (precollege and higher education), state agencies, research institutes, planning district commissions (PDC’s), and the private sector.

 

Mapping with Drones workshop included instruction on the legal and safe operations of sUAS in support of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) remote pilot knowledge test.  Discussions and presentations associated with sUAS applications and data collection sensors and platforms (both fixed wing and rotor) were provided.  Participants acquired valuable information to streamline data collection in the field, maintain equipment, and enhance collected data through image processing options to facilitate spatially enhanced decision-making.

 

Additional sUAS workshops are being scheduled in January 2019 (Blacksburg) and spring 2019 (Richmond and Tidewater).

More info on these workshops can be viewed here, https://vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2018/09/cnre-dronemappingworkshop.html.  For additional information, please visit https://www.virginiaview.cnre.vt.edu/workshops_MappingUAS or contact Daniel Cross (cxcross@vt.edu ).

                                                                                                              
 

Drone Photographer Honored at SWVTC

One of the first participants of the Mountain Empire Community College Unmanned Aerial Systems Program was recently honored by the Southwestern Virginia Technology Council.

Brad Deel, owner of Brad Deel Drone Photography & Videography, LLC, recently received the SWVTC High Tech Award in Small Business during the council’s annual gala, tech expo and awards ceremony held at Virginia Highlands Community College.
 
Deel completed his FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate in October of 2017 after completing courses at Mountain Empire Community College.

 

“As far as the training necessary to receive my FAA remote pilot certificate, MECC was paramount. They provided the training and knowledge needed to not only pass the test, but more importantly, to be a drone pilot who is cognizant of all the rules and guidelines needed to fly safely.”   

 

Brad Deel Drone Photography & Videography, LLC, is a small business specializing in landscape art, commercial development, and tourism. 
 
In September 2017, Deel created a Facebook page to share his photographs and videos. The site has nearly 7,000 followers. You can access (and like) his Facebook page here. The most recent video on the page has been viewed over 93,000 views in the past three days. That video can be found  here.
 
His work has been featured on social media sites by The Weather Channel, Southern Living Magazine, Visit Virginia, The Heart of Appalachia and Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine. 
 
Recently, one of Deel’s photographs earned the top spot in the Mountains and Valleys category of the 2018 Virginia Vistas photo contest, and the winning picture was featured in the Richmond Times Dispatch. 
 
Other news outlets that frequently feature his work include the Coalfield Progress, the Dickenson Star and local news affiliates. Deel’s website can be found here.
                                                                                                              
 

New Workshops for Fall 2018: Mapping with Drones

What: Three-day workshop,  Mapping with Drones
Who: Natural resource managers, planning professionals, public safety officials, agricultural producers, inspectors, educators, etc.
Topic: Mapping with Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS)  (aka ‘drones’)
When and Where: October 2 – 4 (Blacksburg), and October 15 – 17 (Richmond)
Cost: $400 (includes three days of instruction, materials/supplies, and lunches during the workshop).
Information & registration: www.virginiaview.net/workshops_MappingUAS
 
Workshop Summary 
Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) are permeating many sectors of industry, and are increasingly being employed as data collection platforms to support of an array of applications. Applications span disciplines and industries and can include:  planning, natural resource management, marketing, inspection of structures, agricultural production, permitting, and public safety. Specific sensors can be used to tailor application needs. Flights can be scheduled and conducted under short notice to accommodate weather, and temporal considerations. sUAS operations support efficient workflows and provide opportunities for ‘data on demand.’
This 3-day workshop will provide participants with the following:
  • An understanding of FAA and sUAS lingo;
  • A comprehensive knowledge of current federal commercial sUAS regulations;
  • In-depth discussions of sUAS platforms (fixed wing and multi-rotor), sensors (including true color, NIR, multispectral, thermal), and associated applications;
  • sUAS project workflows, including;
    • Compliance with FAA regulations and safe practices;
    • An overview of sUAS operation planning software, check sheets, and smartphone apps;
    • Demonstrations of fixed wing and multi-rotor aircraft (contingent on weather and other local conditions / regulations) of both autonomous and manual operations, and;
    • A comprehensive presentation and demonstration of image processing software techniques and options (image mosaics, NDVI, etc.).
Workshop Outcomes
At the conclusion of the workshop, participants will:
  • be prepared to take (and pass) the FAA’s Remote Pilot Knowledge Test (aka Part 107);
  • have the knowledge to be able to identify applications that may be appropriate for sUAS data collection; 
  • understand the steps required to conduct a commercial sUAS operations safely and legally;
  • be able to identify suitable platforms and sensors to support their application needs;
  • generate image mosaics, compatible with numerous software applications (including GIS, remote sensing, etc.) using drone imagery.
Registration
This is an intensive, yet introductory level workshop. No previous knowledge or experience with drones, sUAS, or GIS is required. 
Online registration is required is available via https://tinyurl.com/UASMapping (major credit cards are accepted).
The cost of the workshop is $400. This includes instruction, handouts and resources, and lunch (for all 3 days).
After registration is received, you will receive further information about the workshop (exact location, etc.).
Space is limited. Registrations will be accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Questions associated with the workshop should be directed to John McGee (jmcg@vt.edu) or Daniel Cross (falkus@vt.edu).
This workshop is sponsored by the Virginia Geospatial Extension Program in partnership with the Geospatial Extension Program at Virginia Tech, Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE), the Conservation Management Institute (CMI), and GeoTEd-UAS.

Liberty University Partnership with VCCS

Through a partnership with Liberty University, three unmanned systems (UMS) courses offered at any Virginia community college can now transfer to Liberty as equivalent UAS courses in their B.S. in Aeronautics–Unmanned Aerial Systems Cognate degree program.

Virginia community college students who complete the three-course sequence, UMS 107 (Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) Remote Pilot Ground School), UMS 111 (Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) I), and UMS 211 (Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) II) can transfer these courses to Liberty University for equivalency with two Liberty courses, AVIA 230 (Unmanned Aerial Systems) and AVIA 235 (Small UAS Ground). This partnership makes it easier for students to transfer community college credit to Liberty University, a four-year institution, which helps them to further their academic pursuits in UAS. The GeoTEd-UAS project hopes to facilitate more similar transfer agreements between VCCS colleges and four-year institutions.