Flight Plan: Drones in Florida classrooms help farms

WSVN — Love them or hate them, drones can often be seen flying high in the sky. One group that loves them is farmers, and some high school students here in South Florida are learning why. 7’s Jeff Lennox has more on their "Flight Plan."

When you think about farming…

Sarah Jones, student: "They think of growing crops and stuff like a farmer."

But this is farming in 2015!

Steve Greer, agriscience teacher: "We’re not necessarily just riding around on a tractor, playing in the dirt."

The tractor is still a part of the agricultural-science class here at South Dade High, but let’s just say a new teaching assistant has flown in to help.

Joshua Olds, Assistant Professor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University: "It’s a mix of what is an unmanned aircraft system, and then how does that relate to agriculture?"

Many of these students have roots in agriculture.

Bryan Case, student: "My family has an agriculture background, and we’ve been here in Homestead for a long time, so I was born into it."

And they know the importance of growing the industry.

Jose Guillen, student: "I want to either farm crops or do what my dad does, which is nurseries."

Which is why it’s so important for these students to be a part of the future of farming, and drones are part of that future.

Jose Guillen: "They use them to survey the fields for damage, like if a storm passes by, or to survey to see if there’s any diseases or defects inside the crops."

Steve Greer: "For me to walk a field and do what this drone does, it would take me a day where it takes the drone 15 minutes."

The pilot program includes lessons with professors brought in from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach!

Steve Greer: "It’s basically an FAA ground school. They’ll be able to take that, whether they go on to college or they go into the industry itself and be able to be successful."

They’re not just hitting the books. Students are getting flight training, too.

Bryan Case: "It was a good experience for me on the drone because it shows how the drone works and everything."

Experts say drone technology will be a major game changer in agriculture, and these students are getting in as the technology is just taking off.

Joshua Olds: "We’re providing that workforce to go out to these rural communities and help develop the industry within those communities."

Steve Greer: "The average age of a farmer right now is in the lower 60s. We need fresh blood. We need that excitement."

Uprooting old school traditions, and giving them wings with a new flight plan.

Sarah Jones: "There’s the drone aspect to it. There’s a lot more to it than just cows and tractors and fields."

Joshua Olds: "To say we’re cutting edge, I think that’s an understatement."

South Dade High School is one of only 11 agricultural science classes in Florida picked for the pilot program pioneered by Florida Farm Bureau, University of Florida and Embry-Riddle University.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Embry Riddle Aeronautical University:
http://www.erau.edu/aerospace-institute/

South Dade Senior High FFA:
http://www.sdshs.net/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=63877&type=d

About Stephen Greer:
http://www.sdshs.net/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=113821&type=u

Miami-Dade County Farm Bureau:
http://www.dade-agriculture.org/

Florida Farm Bureau:
http://www.floridafarmbureau.org/

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