- Associated Press - Monday, February 18, 2019

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - Students at the South Dakota School of Mines are working on drone technology that could potentially protect lives and impact the agriculture industry, according to officials at the science and engineering university.

The students have developed drones that fly together like a flock or swarm of birds without any manual control. Each drone measures 10 inches (25.4 centimeters) wide and has a thermal camera and sensors that detect nitrogen levels in fertilizer. Farmers would use the drones as a unit to more evenly disperse nutrients on fields, KOTA-TV reported.

“They actually work on the hardware and also the software that’s going to make them more intelligent. So our students are actually doing cutting edge research with our faculty experts to take these drones to the next level,” said Magesh Rajan, who leads the university’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department.

The university said the technology could also be used for cell tower work. Instead of sending a person to climb several hundred feet up to fix a problem, the drones could fly up and analyze what needed to be repaired, according to Electrical and Computer Engineering Assistant Professor Shankarachary Ragi.

He noted such inspections occur regularly, and that some of the work could be automated without creating safety concerns.

“I’m not saying we should not have any humans in the loop. But some of the activities, whatever can be automated,” Ragi said.

Ragi said AT&T; is interested in using the drones for the company’s thousands of cell towers.


Information from: KOTA-TV, http://www.kotatv.com

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