Indiana State University Offers Drone Training

The university’s degree program in unmanned aerial vehicle technology will teach employees how to fly drones for crop inspection.

by The Tribune-Star, Terre Haute, Ind. / April 6, 2017 0

(TNS) -- Indiana-based seed company Beck’s Hybrids is looking to Indiana State University to train employees under a new Federal Aviation Administration rule related to use of drones for commercial purposes.


The program involves FAA certification for Beck’s employees so they can help customers assess crops for any potential problems during growing season.

Jim Love, Beck’s light robotic manager, said the partnership with ISU “will allow us to make sure that the individuals operating those UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] are trained at the highest level.” So far, about 60 people from several Midwestern states have been trained, not just Beck’s employees but also clients.

The company wants to ensure its employees are not only certified but that they are operating UAVs safely and have the most up-to-date training, he said.

Drones are used for crop inspection and evaluation, he said.

Last summer, the FAA announced the first national, uniform regulations for commercial operation of unmanned aircraft systems, or drones, under 55 pounds, also known as Part 107 of FAA regulations.

Before last August, it was challenging to become licensed as a commercial drone operator, Love said. “There were hoops to jump through,” he said. The new FAA rule helped address that.

Richard Baker, executive director of ISU’s Center for Unmanned Systems, agreed that prior to August, businesses needed an FAA exemption, certificate of authorization or waiver, and usually, a pilot’s license. “You could go through the process, which often took many months, and still not be approved,” he said. “The new rule sets up a remote pilot license process with knowledge testing and certification. ... It takes less time and is much less cumbersome.”

ISU started providing training last November. “I anticipate demand for the training will continue to grow over the next several years,” Baker said.

ISU’s Center for Unmanned Systems and Human Capital Development was established several years ago and it offers a four-year degree program focusing on UAV technology. In 2015, the school received FAA approval to fly the vehicles at Terre Haute Regional Airport and the Indiana National Guard Muscatatuck Urban Training Center.

“ISU is excited about our partnership with Beck’s, and we wish them great success. Our faculty and students see this relationship as another way to demonstrate the capabilities of small UAS and their potential impact in food production,” Baker said.

Beck’s calls the school “a perfect partner” for the program and says it has donated a commercial UAV to ISU.

Beck’s is a family-owned and operated seed company that serves farmers in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, Iowa, Missouri and Wisconsin.

©2017 The Tribune-Star (Terre Haute, Ind.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.