UAT Program Acquires New Ag-specific Drone

Photo of Morgan Henton and the new drone
Jul 18, 2022

Students in Olney Central College’s Unmanned Aerial Technology Program will gain hands-on experience working with a new ag-specific drone this fall.

The DJI Agras T30 is the largest unmanned aerial vehicle acquired to date, weighing 55 pounds, and spanning 8 feet by 7 feet, with the arms fully extended.

“It is a pretty impressive sight up in the air,” said UAT Specialist Morgan Henton. “The drone can spray liquid herbicide or fungicide from an 8-gallon liquid tank that can be switched out with a dry tank for dispersing fertilizer and cover crops. The dry tank can hold 70 pounds of dry material.”

Students will typically use the new drone for mock exercises, substituting water for actual ag-related chemicals. The activities will provide students the opportunity to employ mapping technology with the information programmed into the controller along with spread and fill rates. The drone will follow a grid pattern and return to a predetermined location when the tank needs refilled.

“The drone is very autonomous,” Henton said. “The students will gain experience working with the maps and learning to trust the technology to do its job.”

The use of drones within the agricultural industry is continuing to increase. Drones enable farmers to access fields when wet conditions would make the ground unsuitable for heavy equipment.

“They are ideal if you want to target a specific area. For niche crops like orchards and wineries, you can take work that has typically be done by hand and save time and money switching to the drone,” Henton added.

With their versatility, Henton expects an even greater expansion of drone technology in the future.

“I know of four ag retailers who have purchased or will be purchasing drones in the next year,” Henton said. “As technology gets better, battery longevity increases and the price comes down over the next 10 to 15 years, farmers will be having them in the shed. We are already seeing more and more. In the future, they will be used pretty heavily in this part of the world.”

To learn more about the UAT Program, visit Classes start August 18 and new students are being accepted. For more information, call 618-395-7777.

UAT is a Title III Program supported in part by a five-year grant awarded to Olney Central College from the U.S. Department of Education effective October 1, 2018. The estimated total cost for all project activities is $2,506,775 financed by the grant award of $2,249,968 (90%) and $256,807 (10%) by Olney Central College.