While many people are getting in trouble with the Federal Aviation Administration for using drones the wrong way, students in Hernando County are using them to learn. Students at Hernando High are using UAV’s (unmanned aerial vehicles) or drones for Ag class.
"It’s different, it takes a while to learn the controls, get used to it and know when to bring it down,” said Justin Walker.
With agriculture being one of the biggest industries in Florida, teacher Rick Ahrens wants to make sure his students have the best tools to prepare for the workforce. "About 80% of the jobs with UAV's are in agriculture,” said AgriScience teacher Rick Ahrens
The students learn how to work the drones by starting with SUMO UAV that stays on the ground. Once they've mastered that, they can start flying them.
The equipment is paid for through a grant from the Department of Education, and The Gaetz Institute at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University.
Hernando High School is one of 15 schools in Florida with this unique program.
“Coming out of high school I'll be certified to fly one of these. So I could talk to a farmer about maybe flying one for a business,” said senior Jacob Whelan.
Ahrens says many farmers in Florida are already using this cost saving technology to better treat their crops. It allows them to see problem areas including poorly irrigated spots, places with fungus, where to spray pesticide and more.
For students, it’s a fun way to learn on the job training. The students work with the drones three to four times a week.
"This is an entrepreneur type thing for not a whole lot of money realistically. They can start a business and make some really good money doing this," said Ahrens.
"It’s just a great program and I hope we have it next year,” said Walker.
Once students graduate from this course, they will have an industry certification allowing them to use the skills in the workforce right away.