By Michele F. Mihaljevich
HARTFORD CITY, Ind. — Purdue University extension is offering classes for those interested in obtaining a commercial Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, or drone, remote pilot’s license.
The classes will be in Tipton County (Feb. 24, 26, and March 2, 4, 8 a.m.-noon EST), Whitley County (Feb. 26 and March 4, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. EST) and Gibson County (March 4-5, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. CST). The cost per person is $200, which includes meals and materials.
A license is required by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for any activity done with a drone that brings value to an organization, whether profit or non-profit, said Mark Carter, Blackford County extension educator for agriculture and natural resources.
“Most famers think, ‘I don’t need a license because I’m using my drone on my land’, but that’s not the case,” he explained. “Our program offers hands on flying experience. We walk through everything Purdue extension is currently doing with drones, such as imagery, how to interpret the imagery, what to do if you have a flyaway.”
Other topics include sectional charts, flight instructions, camera settings, record keeping, data management and other information specific to the FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot Knowledge Test. The multiple choice test is required to get a license. Licenses must be renewed every two years.
“A drone is a somewhat large investment,” noted Crystal Van Pelt, Steuben County extension educator for agriculture and natural resources. “It may not be a $300,000 tractor, but spending up to $2,000 on a drone is still a lot of money. We’ll talk about the pros and cons of different drone technologies and the software so they can make sure what works best for them. If they already have a drone, they should bring that to the classes.”
Purdue extension offered similar classes in March and April 2019, Carter said. “We had a pretty healthy mix of farmers, ag professionals, teachers and private citizens,” he pointed out. Whether farmers are interested in flying their own drones or hiring a company “depends on the person’s mindset. It depends on their level of understanding about technology. Some may fly the drone and use third party software. Others may just want to get pictures of their fields. We are seeing more of the over 35 crowd than we are those ages 20-35. Much of the younger generation already has a lot of technological understanding.”
Van Pelt said most of the people who attend her drone presentations are farmers, but she also sees crop advisors, agronomists and those with a military background. In a survey conducted last winter, 86 percent of growers said they wanted to use the technology but only 15 percent actually had, she said.
“Drones are a technology that extension educators can use locally in their counties to help train our growers,” Van Pelt stated. “I can personally show our growers how to use them. Having a network of 20 plus educators across the state (with access to drones) can impact our growers.”
The registration deadline is Feb. 19 for Whitley County (Northeast Purdue Agricultural Center, Columbia City). To register, visit www.cvent.com/d/chqyz8. The Tipton County (4-H Fairgrounds, Tipton) deadline is Feb. 21 (www.cvent.com/d/lhq62g); and the Gibson County (extension office, Princeton) deadline is Feb. 26 (www.cvent.com/d/0hq6wt).
For more on drones, visit www.faa.gov/uas/. The site includes information on registering drones and on licensing.