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Dayton college offers drone training for new farm users

OKEANA, Ohio — Dave and Gail Lierer bought a Yunee Typhone 2500 drone with a 4K camera at the 2016 Farm Science Review. Learning to operate it has been a challenge and fun, Gail said; it’s had more of a learning curve than anticipated.

Their sons, David and Michael, found that even YouTube tutorials didn’t help. “It would have been easier if I had played Nintendo as a kid,” Dave said – the drone is operated with a small joystick, similar to the game system’s.

“We wanted it mainly to check our crops,” Gail said. “We have field tile and we can look for problem spots with the drone.”

Added Dave, “We can use it to scout our fields. The drone saves you a lot of time; you can fly over a lot of acres easier than you can walk the acres to inspect it.”

The drone’s handheld transmitter has a small monitor so the operator can see what the drone would photograph, or it can be viewed in a larger format on a tablet or computer. The drone will take either photos or videos, which can then be downloaded for a better view.

“A lot of times you can’t fly it because of the conditions,” Dave said. “Anything over a 5- to 7-mile-an-hour wind makes it hard to control the drone. The best time is a sunny day where you get good photo shots.”

The Lierers keep their drone in sight at all times; learning to guide it took some patience. It has a homing device that will bring it back to within 10 feet of where the transmitter is stationed. If the battery is dying, a red light flashes on the transmitter so the operator knows it needs to return to the base.

Not all drones have that capacity – the Lierers said they have already found two drones in their fields, lost to the owners.

Sinclair Community College in Dayton has several programs that could have helped those owners. The school offers classes that will assist those who want to see what flying a drone is like. It will also work with someone who already owns a drone, to help them learn more about its capabilities and available software programs.

The school will tailor a program to meet someone’s needs. “We have an ‘Introduction to Unmanned Aerial Systems’ (UAS),” said Andrew Shepherd, PhD, UAS program director at Sinclair. “It’s a kind of a lab; you spend an hour on a simulator and then an hour flying a real UAS, which we provide. That’s $40 per person, no minimum enrollment.”

Sinclair offers a short course, available in person or online, on the applications of UAS in precision agriculture. Shepherd said instructors can tailor a program to the student’s particular interests and needs.

In addition, the college provides an academic certification program of 16 semester hours, which leads to Sinclair’s one-year certification or two-year degree program in unmanned aerial systems. For details, visit or email