CAPE GIRARDEAU — Southeast Missouri State University's Department of Agriculture has something new at its farm — a drone unofficially dubbed "Ag Force One."
Students and faculty are being trained on how to use the unmanned aerial vehicle, a $6,000 piece of equipment.
"We're going to use the drone for education purposes in our classroom to teach agriculture students cutting-edge technologies ... but we'll also use it in our research and to demonstrate different technologies to the agricultural community," department Chairman Mike Aide said.
The drone works by carrying a high-powered camera that shoots photos and video footage. The Southeast Missourian reported that students in plant science classes such as water management and cotton and rice production will use the drone.
The camera in the drone will help assess crops; it will fly within a few feet of them. Students will be able to evaluate data to consider changes to a crop management plan. Aide said students will be able to take the knowledge to their home communities and implement it.
Aide and Indi Braden, an associate professor of agriculture, along with four students, were trained on operating the drone last month. He said the device will gather accurate data about crops and improve efficiency in fields.
Improved data-gathering will allow for a more precise amount of chemicals, fertilizers and soil nutrients to be used, Aide said.
For example, the drone flying over corn could show that if it is too yellow, there is probably a nitrogen deficiency.
"If the timing of the crop is correct and you still have some time in the life cycle of the crop, you can put out rescue treatments," Aide said.
The drone can travel up to 35 mph and can ascend 400 feet. A hand-held controller or an iPad is used to operate it.