U.S. Senator Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Fort Hays State University announced Friday that FHSU has been awarded a grant of more than $700,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop curricula focused on the use of small unmanned aerial systems (UAS) in precision agriculture.
The program, under development by FHSU, claims to enhance and improve the technical and analytical skill sets of the next generation of farm managers, technicians and crop advisors. The grant is part of a $4 million award to Non-Land Grant Colleges and Universities.
As Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Sen. Moran supported a $1 million increase in federal funding for the USDA Capacity Building Grants for Non-Land Grant Colleges of Agriculture Program, which is furnishing the $701,072 grant to FHSU. This is the second largest grant given out by the program this year and one of the larger federal grants received by FHSU.
“Investments in research grants for Non-Land Grant Colleges of Agriculture provide hands-on learning opportunities for students with the added benefit of discovering new information to be utilized by farmers and ranchers,” Sen. Moran said. “This grant awarded to Fort Hays State University will go toward an effort to link the enormous potential of incorporating UAS into precision agriculture with real world application of the technology. Strong support of agricultural research makes certain our producers are on the forefront of technological advancements and ahead of our global competitors in agriculture.” The new curricula will teach both the gathering of data by UAS and the incorporation of the data into agriculture. The primary focus will be on providing students with experiential-learning opportunities involving the hands-on use of UAS and analytical tools along with “real world” experiences applying data in management decision making.
“We are very grateful to Senator Jerry Moran for his vote of confidence in stewarding the process that ultimately resulted in awarding this grant to Fort Hays State University,” FHSU President Mirta M. Martin said. “This is an investment in the future, not only for our students, but for our region and our state. It is particularly significant, as it illustrates the benefits derived from uniting academic disciplines under our newly created College of Science, Technology and Mathematics. When people come together for the common good, excellence is the outcome.”
The primary beneficiaries of this grant at FHSU will be students pursuing post-secondary agricultural degrees, as well as those seeking degrees in natural resource management. Farmers and ranchers on the Great Plains and Flint Hills will also benefit through open houses, field days and workshops held at regional farms and natural areas that will demonstrate and provide experience with new UAS technology in the support of the agricultural economy. Demand is high and the job outlook is very strong for individuals skilled in the understanding and use of precision agricultural technologies. In Kansas alone, the economic impact of UAS technologies is estimated at $2.9 billion over the next decade. This grant will help make certain that a skilled workforce is available to meet this potential.