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NW Iowa vo ag teachers study drones

By Staff | Jul 25, 2015

Chris Rich


SIOUX CITY -Morningside College may develop a drone program within its new agriculture department.

On July 10, community vocational ag instructors gathered at the school’s Olson Stadium to learn more about the potential program.

Rich Crow, an assistant Morningside College professor of applied ag and food studies, said the idea for a drone program at Morningside was planted by an alum, Doyle Turner, of Moville.

“It’s something that just makes sense,” Turner said.

CLAY DRENTH, vo-ag instructor for Galva-Holstein, examines a quad drone, while Brett Oetken, Le Mars vo-ag instructor, and Dan Witten, Westwood-Sloan vo-ag, look on.

While he doesn’t currently have a drone, Crow said there’s little doubt that that one will eventually be used on his farm land near Moville, which he rents to neighboring farmers.

Crow said his interest in drones came about six months ago after purchasing a plane kept at Martin’s Flying Service in South Sioux City, Nebraska.

Turner said, “I had decided after learning of the flying service’s youth flying program that it wouldn’t cost any more to let students wanting to fly to use the plane than to just let it set at the field.”

The next step, Turner said, was to become a part of the young people flying school, led by business owner Gene Martin and Tom Fredrickson, ground school instructor.

Conversations with Fredrickson, who is a Federal Aviation Agency proctor, turned to the use of drones and their use in a variety of industries including agriculture.

-Farm News photos by Jolene Stevens AMONG PARTICIPANTS and presenters during the July 10 drone learning session at Morningside College, Sioux City, are from left, Dan Witten, Westwood-Sloan ag instructor; Doyle Turner, Moville ag instructor; Gene Martin and Tom Fredrickson, of Martin’s Flying Service, South Sioux City; Randi Koehler, Lawton-Bronson ag instructor; Rich Crow, Morningside College ag instructor; and Molli Griffin, Kingsley-Pierson ag instructor.

Turner took his idea of using drones for agriculture to Morningside business instructor Pam Nicholson, who agreed the program would fit with the ag curriculum.

“I feel like things have really been taking off from there, ” Crow said. “As technology keeps growing, something like this can introduce Morningside students to a brand-new industry and how they look at agriculture.

“It can be something quite impressive and beneficial for students.”

Crow said he could envision the program incorporating building and repair of the drones, opening still more doors for students.

“As with anything else, if you can’t fix a damaged drone you’re not going to fly it very long,” he said.

He added he sees a program giving students both a private pilot’s license and commercial drone certification one with dual benefits.

“Future possibilities of a readily available course for ag students wanting to work with drones has its own definite rewards,” Tom Fredrickson, proctor ground school and instructor at Martin’s Flying Service said. “Today’s students geared as they are to learning and processing new technology they’ve grown up with are, as I see it, a natural fit for the rapidly growing drone programs such as that currently being discussed by Morningside.

“The students have a desire to use their abilities within the ag industry.”

They are also receptive to keeping abreast of on-going regulations governed Federal Aviation Agency, he said.

Dan Witten, vocational agriculture instructor at Westwood-Sloan school district, said his students are eager to learn drone operation and uses.He anticipates using a $1,000 quad-top drone in as many as his classes as possible during the coming school year.

“Our students have been receptive to learn and love being able to use the new cutting edge technology,” he said.

They see it as a toy they’re playing with as they learn.

“Additional benefits,” he said, “aids them with communication skills and confidence in using the drones, offering them new and emerging careers we’ll see expanding within the next five or more years.”

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