Eric Atkinson and Brian McCornack KSU

(Eric) In recent weeks we’ve talked about Kansas State University’s increasing role in agricultural research, featuring what are called Unmanned Aerial Systems or UAS. On the strength of a multi-million dollar partnership between Kansas State University and what’s called the Plant Bio Security Cooperative Research Center out of Australia. Now the contact if you will, and the lead here at Kansas State University in this project, is with us now, K-State Research Entomologist Brian McCornack. You might explain what this Center’s all about. (Brian) Sure. (Eric) And this partnership. (Brian) Sure, it’s a little bit different funding agency in that it is an Australian government agent project. There’s probably about 30 organizations that are part of this cooperative research center. But then also industry is the third partner in it. (Eric) Now this is a three year, $1.74 million dollar project. (Brian) Right. (Eric) And what K-State will be doing specifically here, you will be taking the technology to the field and through your partners at K-State Salina Campus, which is proficient to say the least in this area. (Brian) All the safety precautions, this is exactly why this particular group is working with Dr. Kirk Barnhart and Mark Langston. I’ve got a half time pilot that fits all those safety criteria that can essentially fly for us. (Eric) What you’re hoping to do in a nutshell here as we get into the details is see what these unmanned aerial systems can provide in the way of crop pest protection in the field. (Brian) We want to be able to see whether or not taking an Unmanned Aerial System platform and comparing that to the way we regularly do surveillance. And surveillance, and all we mean is looking at that same field through time to see if there’s any changes, something we need to take notice of and using the technology to help streamline that process. Can we make it more efficient? Part of what our project is geared at is, can we at least find even areas where we should deploy UAS’s? So, yes there could be time saving and all that. Now you have that image. What do you do next? Do you find areas in the field that look like hot spots for insects? If that’s the case then we might want to deploy multi-rotor UAS, where it might only last 20 minutes in the air. But you might want to then deploy it to certain parts of the field to do more refined imaging. How do we use the UAS to understand its spread, its movement, how the population’s built up and can we detect that in areas where we haven’t detected it before? So, how do we get that data and make sense of it? And then when we fly it into a new area that might not be infested or infected, how do we then determine where to spend more time?

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