Three Kansas schools are teaming up to create a post-secondary degree program focused on using small unmanned aerial systems, or drones, in agriculture.
The goal is to improve the technical and analytical skill sets of the next generation of farm managers, technicians and crop advisors.
Fort Hayes State University is partnering with Hutchinson Community College and Emporia State University to develop curricula focused on the use of drones in precision agriculture.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded a grant of more than $700,000 to Fort Hayes to start the program.
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, says this is one of the larger federal grants ever received by FHSU.
“This grant awarded to Fort Hays State University will go toward an effort to link the enormous potential of incorporating UAS into precision agriculture with real world application of the technology," Moran said in a statement. "Strong support of agricultural research makes certain our producers are on the forefront of technological advancements and ahead of our global competitors in agriculture.”
Students will gain hands-on experience in using drones to collect data, and analytical tools to apply that information in agriculture management decision-making.
Farmers and ranchers on the Great Plains and Flint Hills will also benefit through open houses, field days, and workshops held at each institution’s farms and natural areas.
“We are very grateful to Senator Jerry Moran for his vote of confidence in stewarding the process that ultimately resulted in awarding this grant to Fort Hays State University,” FHSU President Mirta M. Martin said in a statement. “This is an investment in the future, not only for our students, but for our region and our state. It is particularly significant, as it illustrates the benefits derived from uniting academic disciplines under our newly created College of Science, Technology and Mathematics. When people come together for the common good, excellence is the outcome.”
According to a 2013 study by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the economic impact of drone technologies in Kansas is estimated at nearly $3 billion over the next decade.
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