Tag Archives: technology

Sky is the limit for using drones in land management

Adam Downing, Virginia Cooperative Extension forestry agent for the Northern District, is pictured with the eBee at Clermont Farm in Clarke County. Clermont will install a silvopasture demonstration and research project in collaboration with Virginia Tech. The eBee was used to establish detailed baseline land-cover data and historical resources.

Adam Downing, Virginia Cooperative Extension forestry agent for the Northern District, is pictured with the eBee at Clermont Farm in Clarke County. Clermont will install a silvopasture demonstration and research project in collaboration with Virginia Tech. The eBee was used to establish detailed baseline land-cover data and historical resources.

Virginia Tech has another tool in its arsenal for managing land resources that can be used to do everything from inventorying forests and identifying land-use changes to assessing soil erosion and water runoff on agriculture lands.

What is this powerful tool? A 1.5-pound unmanned aircraft, or drone.

“Our drone, a fixed-wing eBee, carried two different sensors — true color and infrared — that gathered land-use and land-cover data to support inventory mapping,” said John McGee, professor and Virginia Cooperative Extension geospatial specialist in Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.

The eBee’s sensors capture data that will enable researchers to measure vegetative vigor — places in which chlorophyll activity differs drastically across the terrain. If the ground vegetation is stressed in a confined area, it might indicate that a structure, perhaps a foundation, is buried underground.

This drone is not just a small airplane; it is a complete and sophisticated system, composed of flight-planning software, a camera, sensor technology, and post-processing data software. The eBee flies under the direction of a licensed pilot, operating on parameters provided through the flight-planning software prior to launching. It continually assesses wind speed, wind direction, and other data. The pilot can also monitor environmental conditions and modify the flight plan and the imagery being captured while the plane is in flight.

Forestry applications for the unmanned aircraft include inventorying forests, identifying changes in urban forests, and monitoring forest health. Agriculture applications include assessing soil erosion, water runoff, and crop health. Facilities planners can analyze pedestrian traffic and lighting needs, plan for emergencies, and use thermal sensors to monitor energy use. The aircraft can also be used to conduct wildlife inventories.

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Living the Legacy — 4-H Forever

4-H'ers play with drones during a tehnology demonstration.

During the Drones and Other Unmanned Aerial Vehicles workshop, participants view a demonstration of drone technology.

After 95 years, Virginia’s State 4-H Congress remains the premier 4-H event, drawing more than 450 young adults from across the commonwealth to the campus of Virginia Tech for four days of learning, leadership, and fun.

“4-H Congress provides members an opportunity to develop life skills and hone their leadership abilities while forging new friendships,” said Tonya Price, an Extension 4-H youth development specialist.

This year’s theme — Living the Legacy – 4-H Forever — drew upon the history of 4-H and its power to assist teens in developing leadership, citizenship, and life skills through hands-on educational programs.

During congress, delegates have the opportunity to compete in events like food challenges and extemporaneous speaking contests. They can also attend workshops to learn more about 4-H competitions like the electric challenge or cattle working. And while at congress, delegates participate in a service-learning project.

Workshops led by Virginia Tech faculty members allow teens to explore career paths in animal science, STEM, leadership, citizenship, healthy living, and environmental science. Sessions offered included Drones and Other Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, National Weather Station Tour and SKYWARN Training, So What’s It Like To Be a USDA Veterinarian?, and Fashion Merchandizing, to name a few.

Congress delegates also learn about educational opportunities at Virginia Tech and Virginia State University. They visit with college representatives to learn about career paths they could pursue. 4-H Congress Coordinator Sam Fisher said that during the college/career tracks, 4-H’ers learn what college truly can offer them.

“They discover things about colleges and majors that they didn’t even know existed,” Fisher said.

Delegates, who submitted applications and were selected, interviewed to represent Virginia 4-H at National 4-H Congress in Atlanta. As part of the process, youth present portfolios of their 4-H experience. The 21 delegates selected this year have an opportunity to interact with and learn from other outstanding 4-H members from across the country.

The Virginia 4-H Cabinet is elected during state congress. Cabinet members plan events like 4-H State Congress, and they work to enhance the public’s understanding of 4-H.

Abby Durheim, from Stafford County, was elected to the cabinet representing the Northern District this year. Durheim, who has been in 4-H for seven years, is considering a career in agricultural law or political science. She wants to further involve herself in 4-H, carrying on the family tradition — her parents were also 4-H’ers.

“4-H plays a huge role in my life,” Durheim said. “I’ve always wanted to be a 4-H’er. I don’t know what I would do without it now. I really enjoyed having the opportunity to interact with other delegates from across the state.”

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