- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 3, 2015

MATTOON, Ill. (AP) - Officials at a Central Illinois community college are considering using drones in agricultural classes.

The Mattoon Journal-Gazette (http://bit.ly/16epCQr ) reports Lake Land College’s agricultural department wants to experiment with drones. The department’s chairman, Jon Althaus, said students are curious how drones might be useful in their careers.

The college began using a small quadcopter drone last spring, when it took photos and video of campus.

Scott Rhine, an information technology instructor at Lake Land, said the drone could be programmed to fly over a farm field. The photos it would take could be stitched together.

Advocates of drone use in the agricultural industry say it would make farming more efficient, allowing farmers to more easily observe huge fields and spot problems. Lower costs could be passed on to consumers.

The Federal Aviation Administration has long been working on regulations for commercial drone uses. Last month the FAA issued the first permit for agricultural use of unmanned aerial vehicles to an Idaho business.

Dennis Bowman, a commercial agriculture educator with the University of Illinois Extension, said farmers without permits could use hobby kit drones. But if they make a commercial decision because of something learned from using the drone, he said it could raise the ire of the FAA.

There’s a big interest in drones in the farming industry, Bowman said.

“Drones allow you to see what your farm looks like from the air,” he said. “Now, there is an opportunity to get that view that is relatively low cost and is something they can do for themselves.”

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Information from: Mattoon Journal-Gazette, http://www.jg-tc.com

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