Flagler County 4-Hers train for using drones for commercial purposes.

UF / IFAS hosted the first 4H drone camp in the Tri-County’s agricultural zone from June 13-17. The camp was kindly sponsored by the Putnam County Soil and Water Conservation District, so the host was in Putnam County.

Eligible participants had to be at least 16 years of age to take the FAA Airman Knowledge Exam in order to receive their Part 107 certification, which enables them to fly drones for commercial purposes. However, this was only for 4-Hers so only teenagers (18 years or younger) could participate. Despite the very narrow age range, we had a total of eight participants – three from Flagler County (Jared Foley, Skyler Wahl and John Williford) and five from Putnam County (Paige Griner, Mark Lewandowski, Garrett Seyler, Brandon Stouffer and Samuel Weiner). . The lead was a collaborative team effort of 10 UF / IFAS faculties, which consisted of certified drone instructors, commercial agragents, 4-H agents, family and consumer science agents, and an intern.

Unmanned aerial vehicle systems (UAS) are becoming an integral part of commercial agriculture, especially vegetable growing systems. They are used to monitor the health of plants as the latest technology is able to detect early disease outbreaks, nutrient deficiencies and plant maturity. Some even have spray functions to safely apply pesticides.

Drones are also being incorporated into property sales, bridge and high-rise inspections, mosquito control, and search and rescue operations. The younger “video game” generation has been practicing hand-eye coordination since they were born and they are very experienced and comfortable flying drones.

The daily mechanics of the camp included practical exercises in drone operation with predetermined obstacle courses, presentations on flight patterns, understanding weather conditions, flight rules, career opportunities and learning to communicate with airports using the aviation alphabet. The ultimate goal was to equip teenagers for passing their Part 107 certification exam so that they could legally fly drones for professional purposes.

All participants have successfully passed their exams and are available to carry out these activities. So if you are looking for a young certified drone operator to assist you in your commercial operations, please contact Wendy Mussoline ([email protected]) and she will be able to pass your inquiries on. Most of them do not have specialized drones equipped for advanced use, but they do have the necessary training. Depending on the application, thousands of dollars can be spent on drone equipment, but if you do choose these brilliant minds, you at least know that your investment is safe.