Sean Chenoweth says the drone technology used in the University of Louisiana at Monroe’s Precision Agriculture Research Center places the school at the forefront of the future.
“It’s a lot of fun and all brand new,” Chenoweth, the director of research for the program, said. “It’s what the Model T was to the auto industry.”
Chenoweth and Paul Karlowitz, director of flight operations for the ULM program, showcased the research center’s work and possibilities during a program Monday at the ULM Library Conference Center.
ULM’s drone program is a concentration within the aviation department. ULM — the only Louisiana university to offer such a concentration — also offers a post-baccalaureate certificate.
Chenoweth’s first research project focused on a 50-acre plot of soybeans farmed by Ouachita Parish producer Gary Mathes.
He said ULM’s fixed-wing drone stitched together hundreds of images into one large mosaic to create a vegetation index of the soybean plot.
“We’re able to pinpoint low-performance areas within the field that allow the farmer to go investigate precisely where the problems are occurring,” Chenoweth said.
Karlowitz said the drone program has grown from 22 students during its first semester last fall to 42 this year.
“We believe this concentration will continue to grow, especially when people begin to see the demand for these students,” Karlowitz said.
A study commissioned in 2012 for the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International forecast the total economic impact of drone integration in the U.S. from 2015-17 to be $13.7 billion with more than 70,000 jobs created.
The same study forecast a total economic impact in Louisiana of $213 million during the same time with more than 1,000 jobs created.
“This program is really something special and our faculty have responded to it and their ability to find creative ways to help our region with this technology,” ULM President Nick Bruno said. “We’re excited about the enrollment growth in the program because we have to keep education fresh and prepare our students for jobs today and in the future.”
State Sen. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, attended the conference, as did state Rep. Andy Anders, D-Vidalia, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, and state Rep. Bubby Chaney, R-Rayville.
“The opportunities for the future of this technology, and I’m so proud that ULM is on the cutting edge of this technology,” Thompson said.
Chaney said the school’s drone program “places ULM on the threshold of a new era in agriculture.”
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com