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Purdue Extension’s UAV Program Prepares Participants to Fly Drones for Work or Hobby

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) introduced CFR 14 Part 107 regulations in 2016 to address increased numbers of UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles, aka drones) in U.S. airspace. Part 107 provides regulation on UAV use in controlled airspace, weather conditions, performance and weight standards, and usage by the general public for professional and hobbyist applications. The FAA reported 865,000 UAVs registered (314,000 commercial, 538,000 hobbyist) along with 280,000 certified UAV pilots. This does not account for all UAVs that are not registered. There are growing concerns of UAV use by companies for delivery, scouting, mapping, and inspections, leading to the need for more training

 Purdue Extension created the UAV program for Indiana stakeholders. Over 240 sessions totaling 190 hours, training focused on UAV applications, safety, regulations, sensors, and best-use cases. Extension specialists and educators used flight planning software to create unique maps to share with stakeholders for data interpretation and manipulation. Nearly 1,200 maps were created and 122,748 acres flown in working with more than 4,000 people across Indiana.

Purdue Extension worked with youth through STEM programs, helping hone flight skills through controller manipulation, obstacle course completion, or UAV presentation/demonstration in classrooms. Some youth developed programming for UAVs through computer software (Scratch or Scratch Jr.), allowing them to develop programmed flights. More than 3,100 youth participated in 52 training sessions. Some 27 UAV programs provided training for 863 agriculture, utility, construction, real estate, insurance, infrastructure, and many other industry professionals, using live drone demonstrations, imagery, and software. In the past five years, Extension and the Purdue Agriculture Centers (PACs) partnered to purchase four spray drones. The team sprayed herbicide and fungicide on about 300 acres of crops at the PACs for research or on-farm demonstration plots. For UAV programs and demonstrations presented in schools, teachers indicated that drones are always the favorite station for students. For adult participants of UAV training, all reported that after the program, they were more aware of safety protocols and better understood applications associated with UAV technology. Nearly all participants (98.3%) were more aware of legal issues and troubleshooting techniques. Most (92.9%) indicated they felt prepared with study materials for taking the FAA’s Remote Pilot test. Three-quarters of adults (75.9%) indicated they plan to take the Remote Pilot test, and to implement UAV technology in their operations (72.4%). Adults described how they plan to implement UAV technology for fire or public safety, inspections/surveys, field scouting, and photography. The majority (80.4%) felt they would save money by investing in UAV technology in the future. The Net Promoter Score® (NPS®) is a measure of customer loyalty that helps inform decision-makers of the experiences they are providing. The calculated NPS® for UAV program participants was +67 (on a scale from -100 to +100) and is considered an excellent rating. Extension’s UAV Program introduces youth to drones via STEM-related activities, prepares adults to take the FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot Test to fly drones for their work or hobbies, and increases participant knowledge about future job or career opportunities.

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