Piedmont Virginia Community College is now offering a drone certification class for farmers who want to use that technology.
PVCC became the first college in the nation to receive approval from the Federal Aviation Authority to conduct research and development of aircraft and sensors, including small unmanned aircraft systems, or drones, used for public safety. The college held a course for emergency services personnel and first responders in May.
Now it’s extending that training to farmers who want to obtain FAA certification to operate drones, and to learn about technology for extracting data from the drones.
“The class enables farmers who use precision agriculture practices to add an additional capability to get the data they need to make decisions during all stages of operations—from field assessments, planting, fertilizing, pesticide/fungicide applications and even insurance claims,” said Darren Goodbar, curriculum developer and principal instructor for the class. Goodbar serves as director of aerial services at Draper Aden Associates and is a certified pilot for manned aircraft and remotely piloted aircraft. He has been operating military drones and commercial markets for more than five years.
“Farmers, from high-value crops to corporate farms that have previously relied on satellite imagery and GIS data are also utilizing drones for faster delivery, advanced data and higher resolution imagery,” Goodbar said. Adoption rates have been higher among larger scale and specialty farm operations, but drone use is starting to catch on with other Virginia farmers, he said.
In addition to PVCC’s classroom training, fieldwork is being conducted at King Family Vineyards at Roseland Farm in Albemarle County. Farmers who take the course will learn about FAA regulations and will be introduced to the technology and capabilities of aircraft, sensors and processes that can help them make decisions regarding their farms. At King Family Vineyards, students will learn how to fly drones, collect data and integrate data into their farming operations.
“PVCC, in partnership with King Family Vineyards, provides a real-world training environment for those looking to integrate drones as part of their precision agricultural operations,” Goodbar said. Class participants “will be trained on the same solutions that are available to them now, not generic consumer drones traditionally reserved for aerial photography.”
The class is part of PVCC’s spring curriculum and is limited to 12 participants. Interested farmers should contact PVCC Workforce Services at 434-961-5354 for more information.