Clark State program targets UAS jobs

Precision agricultural program could create thousands of new Ohio jobs

Clark State Community College wants to create a precision agricultural program that could help bring thousands of new jobs related to farming and the unmanned aerial systems industry to Ohio.

The $520,000 project could start as early as fall 2014 and help bring an estimated 2,650 new jobs to the state by 2017, according to documents from the Dayton Development Coalition’s Dayton Region Priority Development and Advocacy Committee.

“It’s going to make farming and agriculture business more profitable and provide sustainability so that our children and their children can continue to farm,” said Aurea L. Rivera, local business owner and a Clark State consultant.

Clark State officials applied for $275,000 in funding from the state capital budget to establish the program, which could would be the first of its kind in Ohio.

Mandy Havenar, Clark County Farm Bureau organization director, said she was excited about the proposed program.

“It’s exciting, and an exciting time to be in the agricultural community,” Havenar said. “Farming has become an extremely technical field … It’s amazing what GPS has done for agriculture … The Clark State program can only help the industry grow and help the farmers.

The project would also be funded with matching dollars — $125,000 from Clark State and $120,000 in private funding.

“Program funding will support curriculum development, technology to support modeling and simulation analysis and student internships,” according to the Priority Development and Advocacy Committee documents.

The new training center would be modeled after a similar program at Kirkwood Community College in Iowa. A precision agricultural program is also available at Purdue University in Indiana.

Clark State officials say the curriculum in Springfield would provide students with knowledge of agriculture, technology and data information systems.

The Dayton-Springfield region already is positioning itself to be a nationally recognized hub of UAV research and development, and a drone for agricultural use hits home even further — one of every seven jobs in Ohio is tied to farming.

The region wants to become one of six sites nationally that soon will be designated by the Federal Aviation Administration for the testing of UAVs. The FAA wants to determine if UAVs can safely be integrated into manned airspace by 2015, and the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport has been eyed as one such testing space.

Whether the region wins a designation — which local officials say could also result in a number of new jobs — one thing is certain: There’s plenty of ground here for agricultural drones to someday cover.

In 2011, 153,400 acres of corn were planted in Clark and Champaign counties, with 147,200 acres of soybeans.

The program would also provide a path for students attending the Global Impact STEM Academy, which is currently on the Clark State campus.

“Clark State is transforming the way that training and education will be given to a new generation of agricultural students,” Rivera said. “If UAS comes (to the Dayton-Springfield region), it would be a terrific opportunity to expand what UAS will do for agriculture.”

Rivera said while there’s a lot of interest in unmanned aerial systems, much of the discussion has been about its use by law enforcement and first responders and privacy concerns.

She said more focus needs to be on how UAS can be used for precision agriculture.

“Clark State wants to take the lead on that,” Rivera said.

Staff Writer Andrew McGinn contributed to this story.

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