i-Three Issue Corps – Drone, Drone On The Range!

Cheerson CX-10 nano drone
Cheerson CX-10 nano drone (photo by Victor Villegas)

Drones – for many, the term conjures up images of stealthy spies in the sky or death from above. The truth, however, is that there are many more good uses of drones than bad.

What is a Drone?

A drone is basically an unmanned aircraft vehicle controlled remotely via radio. This includes multi-rotors, R/C helicopters and fixed wing airplanes. Their size varies from full size aircraft to tiny little nano drones which can fit in the palm of your hand.

Like many technologies today, drones started as a military application, but increasingly are being used in a variety of non-lethal jobs, such as search and rescue, scientific research and agriculture. Negative public perception and a restrictive U.S. regulatory environment, however, have made research and education with drones a challenge, something I am working on changing through my i-Three Issue Corps project.

Drones in Agriculture for STEAM Youth Education

Drones are fantastic flying robots full of amazing technologies. They are used as platforms for high tech sensors, helping farmers and researchers measure the environment and crops. These sophisticated sensors can detect and help diagnose problems, helping producers make better decisions, increase yields and manage resources.

Victor Villegas, aka Drone Singer, presenting to 4H kids about drones in agriculture.
Victor Villegas, aka Drone Singer, presenting to 4-H kids about drones in agriculture. (Photo by Glenda Hyde)

My project is to educate youth about how drones are being used in agriculture and research and spark their interest in pursuing STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics) careers so they can help address  complex global issues, such as food production, and sustainability.

One of the ways I have been educating is via social media and creating parody songs about drones. This has led to several interviews and co-exhibiting with USDA/NIFA at the USA Science & Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C. this past April. My online efforts have also led to some Skype sessions with students in the U.S. and a webinar for some eXtension counterparts in Australia on the use of “UAVs in the USA.”

Locally, I have exhibited and presented on drone technology for high school students in Clatsop County and a 4-h club in Polk County, Oregon. My plans for this summer include exhibiting at several county fairs in Oregon and doing a couple of “Drones in Agriculture” workshops for Oregon State University Extension 4-H youth during their Summer Conference.

UAS in Agriculture Learning Network

For more information on how drones are being used in agricultural research, please visit the eXtension Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) in Agriculture Learning Network website at http://www.learnuasag.org/. The learning network also has resources available on: Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.