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Valley Universities Join Hands On Drone Research Project

Two Valley universities are joining forces with U-C Cooperative Extension to make drones a tool to be relied on down on the farm.

U-C Merced and Fresno State both have drone programs where students build and learn to fly the unmanned aircraft systems.{} They're also using the flying machines for water stress monitoring, pest management and pest detection.{} Recently the state created a 250-thousand dollar grant to use drones to monitor specialty crops.{}

David Doll is a farm advisor for U-C Cooperative Extension.{} "Now trying to find a way to watch the entire field. A real time image of what actually is going on in the field at that given time.{} We're hoping in a couple of years we'll have a better idea how to monitor crop water stress with the technologies."

Fresno State engineering professor Gregory Kriehn says the grant will allow his students to use drones to monitor ground sensors at the university farm.{} "A system that logs in real time and an unmanned system can fly over and talk to those sensors on the ground and pull the data at will once a day, once a week, once a month, several times a day."

Everyone involved in the research project says growers have show a great interest in the technology.{} The head of U-C Merced's drone program Dr. Yangquan Chen calls the grant real world funding because it is ag based.{} "So hopefully by the end of the project we'll see our research flowering everywhere in the Central Valley."

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