LINN — State Tech graduate and Missouri Valley Drone owner Nathan Troesser of Bonnots Mill took time last week to demonstrate one of his largest drones to Civil Technology students. …
LINN — State Tech graduate and Missouri Valley Drone owner Nathan Troesser of Bonnots Mill took time last week to demonstrate one of his largest drones to Civil Technology students. Troesser said there is a lot of demand for agricultural applications. “It depends on what we’re doing,” he noted. “On crop ground, our fungicide is the most popular product we’re putting on. At that stage, you can’t really run down your corn unless you have one of those high-rise machines. Typically, farmers don’t have those, and even when you do, no matter how good an operator you are, you’re still running crops down. A lot of people I work for don’t have spray equipment to take care of their pastures, so it’s easier to hire me. The machines competing with these drones are planes and helicopters; we don’t see many planes around here. We don’t have the terrain for it, and it’s difficult to get helicopters to come down here. At the end of the day, drones are performing much better than planes and helicopters. Farmers are getting better results with drones.”
Additionally, Troesser said safety is a factor. “We typically find that because there’s a lot of pastures around here, and down in southern Missouri, where it’s just too rough to get round rigs on, there’s a greater chance of having an accident, turning something over,” he added. “So, these are safer, more efficient ways to get to those difficult terrain pastures.”
Troesser graduated from Civil Construction Technology last year after earning a Heavy Equipment Operations (HEO) certificate the previous year. He launched his drone business two years ago, and last year, he began selling drones.
The large drone he demonstrated last week has a $30,000 price tag, but Troesser said he recouped his investment by applying chemicals to 2,000 acres. In the last year, Troesser worked on 8,000 acres.
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One reason for the demonstration was to explain drone use in agriculture.
“Agricultural spraying is not in our curriculum, but family farming is big in Osage County,” said Civil Construction (CIV) and Civil Engineering Technology (CVT) Instructor David Henes, who is training students to use drones in a variety of settings. “It’s a great introduction to drones for our students, and having alumni return to demonstrate how it all works shows that anyone can make it.”
Henes added that several industry partners are working with State Tech to develop new ways to utilize drones.“Drones are being used more and more, from search and rescue to marketing and mapping,” said Henes, who brought drone training to State Tech. “Commercial Turf is considering ways to utilize the technology. A lot of instructors at the college are thinking of ways to integrate this technology.”
Additionally, drones are used to inspect construction sites and data collection following storms. They can also be used to map volume at rock quarries.
“We want to appeal to youth, and who doesn’t want to fly drones?” Henes said. “We also need graduates who can be competitive. Companies are working with us to get new technology out there. Right now, there’s not a huge demand, but there will be. This may be the next ‘dot.com’ boom.”
Henes’ students use a flight simulator, which he said seriously reduces hazards and crashes. “You will crash at some point,” Henes added. “We want students to expect that, and we fly safely, so it’s not a big detriment to property or people. It helps, and we’ve significantly reduced the number of accidents.”
Civil Construction and Civil Engineering students practice live at Osage View, where there’s plenty of open space. “We chose to do it at the golf center because there’s no student population, and there aren’t as many buildings to worry about,” Henes said.
Students learn how to fly regular drones, connecting to a tablet or smart controller, which integrates everything into the screen. Both of the controllers are used to conduct manual and autonomous flights.
“There are three signals,” Henes said. “One is communication from the satellite. One is for the camera on a low frequency, and the other is a high-frequency transmission to operate the drone.”
The reason for the two signals is simple but genius. “The first signal to go will be the camera,” Henes explained. “That tells you that the UAV is nearing the edge of reception and allows students to stop or turn around.”
However, even if the controller dies or loses signal, the satellite controls the auto-pilot functions return to home (RTH). “One day, my controller completely died, and I had no control over the drone,” said Henes. “Because I pre-set my RTH, the drone returned to where it started and landed safely. That’s the beauty of the modern UAVs.”
These UAVs are equipped with high-resolution cameras. On Wednesday of last week, during a practice session outside the State Tech Driving Range, one student zoomed in on the Callaway County Nuclear Plant’s reactor. “The cameras are top-notch,” said Henes. “It’s amazing what you can see and capture from a long way off.”
Students also demonstrated the drone’s surveillance features, including circling an object while capturing images.
“A lot of that can be programmed with the smart controller on newer models,” said Henes. “But students still need to understand the concepts of aviation. It’s like any other aircraft.”
Henes helps prepare students to take the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Part 107 course for those who want to fly Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) commercially. “That will open a lot of employment opportunities for the those that choose to obtain their part 107’s,” he said.
Under FAA Part 107, certificated remote pilots, including commercial operators, may fly at night, over people, and moving vehicles without a waiver as long as they meet the requirements defined in the “Operations Over People” rule that became effective on April 21, 2021. Airspace authorizations are still required for night operations in controlled airspace under 400 feet.
“Part 107 certification is another way for our students to find employment after graduation,” said Henes.
Due to the number of students, Henes splits them into groups that can use six or eight drones at a time. He has 16 drones, but there have been challenges.
“The technology changes so fast that from one day to the next, you could be on the verge of obsolescence,” said Henes.
A day or two after purchasing a set of drones, for example, Henes said he learned of a requirement that hadn’t been addressed in the UAVs sent to the college. The company added the necessary components to comply with FAA regulations in the next model.
As of now, Civil Construction and Civil Engineering students are using FAA-compliant drones.
For more information, visit statetechmo.edu.