The Buzz of the Future
As the technology advances, Pierznski said crop consultants will be able to diagnose plant diseases easier, determine insect infestations earlier and catch nutrient deficiencies. High resolution and near infrared photography already can enhance the work a consultant does, Pierznski said. As cameras get better and more advanced and the tools that can be added to a UAS become widely available, crop consultants will fi nd UAS a key tool in doing their jobs.
“With more UAS becoming available for use, this technology will help crop consultants handle more acres since it’s expected there will be fewer crop consultants to scout acres in the future,” Pierznski said. With UAS ranging in price from $5,000 up to several thousand dollars, farmers are also expected to be quick adopters.
“Basically the cost of the UAS will be determined by the payload that is added to the base unit,” said Mark Blanks, program manager of Kansas State University’s unmanned aircraft systems program.
At the event, Blanks demonstrated the different cameras and instruments that can be added to a basic unmanned vehicle and explained that depending on the additions, the cost of building or buying a UAS could vary widely.
Blanks also explained that although many farmers can build their own, especially if they are hobby aircraft enthusiasts, more and more companies are getting into the UAS business, and as that happens, prices are expected to come down.
Some UAS look like planes and others more like helicopters. [Right] Mark Blanks, program manager of K-State’s UAS program, explains the operation of a helicopter-like UAS.
BACHELOR’S DEGREE IN UAS
K-State has been a leader in the unmanned aircraft systems field. In 2008, it established the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program Office, which is designed to promote the safe incorporation of UAS into the national airspace system.
It is also one of the first two universities in the U.S. to offer a bachelor’s degree in Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), which started in January 2013. K-State is one of a few universities with authorization to fly UAS in the national airspace system, and conducts research on these remote systems.
The university’s bachelor’s degree program uses a handson approach for learning and attaining the skills needed to safely operate and manage UAS. K-State Salina’s campus has proximity to accessible, less restricted airspace that creates an ideal setting for learning to fly unmanned aircraft. The Smoky Hills Weapons Range gives students the ability to gain hands-on flight experience.
As the technology improves and the country awaits a decision from the FAA on future use of UAS, there is no doubt UAS hold a strong economic impact for major agricultural states.