HARRISBURG – The Nebraska Extension hosted a “Drones in Ag Discussion and Demonstration,” on April 6, in Harrisburg.
Several area farmers and ranchers were at the event to learn more about drones, their use in agriculture and the Gering High School drone project.
The GHS project is among a handful of finalists in the “Samsung Solve for Tomorrow” contest.
“You know we live in an agriculture area and the students see that as having a big impact in our area,” said Justin Reinmuth, Gering High School instructor of the dual electronics class. “And we looked at alternate ways to apply drones to agriculture.”
Drones are popular right now and the students decided to take on the task of looking for weeds in fields with a drone. Once the weeds were found with the drone, another drone carrying herbicide would then go out and spot spray the weeds.
“The drone will spot spray so you won’t have to spray the whole field,” said Payton Welfl, a junior at GHS and student in the dual electronics class. “It’ll save you money on buying a whole bunch of pesticides, and helps not to pollute the waters.”
The project began early in the school year, and there were some early bumps to be ironed out.
“We ran the drone into a wall by accident a couple of times and Mother Nature didn’t cooperate at first so we had to fly inside,” Welfl said.
The class also had to figure out a platform for the drone. The students first few attempts with a dual can system put the drone off center.
“We tried doing a dual can system, but didn’t counteract the balancing for the drone to take off,” Welfl said. “So, it would tilt one way or forward and then we went to a Styrofoam-like base and that worked. We went through four bases before we got this one and it works just great.”
In order to enter the contest the class had to have a non-profit partner. Reinmuth said the University of Nebraska Lincoln Panhandle Research and Extension Center agreed to team up with them.
“Drones are like any vehicle, what makes them special is the tools it carries, all the specialized cameras and sensors,” said Dr. Bijesh Maharjan, Soil Scientist at the UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center.
He sees where drones can help in management practices in the crops and deal with issues on spot, rather than blanket solutions.
All three agree drones could have a huge economic and environmental impact on agricultural practices.
Reinmuth added, while they don’t have any hard numbers, he would guess the drone spray application would decrease the amount of herbicides sprayed by around 50 percent. Eventually paying for itself and saving the farmer money spent in the long run.
Gering High School members of the class going to the “Samsung Solve for Tomorrow” contest in Washington D.C are Payton Welfl, Alexis Johnson, Eric Crane and Reinmuth. The students will compete April 24-27 for the chance to win the grand prize of $150,000.