Steve Gauck, soybean field
INSPECT SOYBEANS: Steve Gauck will visit a soybean field on a regular basis again this year as part of the Soybean Watch ’18 project. He also will fly the field with a UAV this season.

UAV to help scout Soybean Watch field

Soybean Watch: Agronomist Steve Gauck explains how he obtained his remote pilot’s license, and why he wants to fly the Soybean Watch ’18 field with a UAV at key times.

Soybean Watch will return in 2018. Sponsored by Beck’s, this project allows you to follow what’s happening in one Midwest soybean field during the entire season. Issues that develop there could also develop in your fields.

Look for reports weekly on the website once the field is planted. The field will be located somewhere in the eastern Corn Belt. It’s a regular farm field. The farmer agrees to allow an agronomist to visit the field on a regular basis during the summer to make observations.

Steve Gauck, a Beck’s sales agronomist based in Greensburg, Ind., observed the field last year, and will be doing so again this year. “We also plan to do a few more things this year,” he says. “We’re going to flag some individual plants and follow them during the season. And we’re going to have access to a UAV. I will make flights over the field during the season when I feel it’s necessary so we can get a better picture of what’s happening across the field, instead of just in a few spots. We can do a better job of ground-truthing if we know which areas in the field appear different from the air. Afterward we can walk to those spots and investigate further.”

Remote license training
Gauck recently passed the Federal Aviation Administration test and received his remote pilot’s certificate. That’s why he will be able to scout the field using an unmanned aerial vehicle this year.

Beck’s works with Indiana State University in Terre Haute on a two-day class that teaches participants about drones and all the rules that surround them, Gauck says. ISU also offers full degrees in unmanned aircraft technology, and is rated one of the top five colleges for unmanned aircraft programs in the U.S. by Drone Training HQ.

“It’s an intense class but prepares you well for the exam,” Gauck says. “Things we learned about included weather, airspace, how to read sectional charts and how to fly safely in the area. The FAA has a small unmanned aircraft study guide that gives all the information you need.”

Gauck acknowledges that the test is difficult, but says with a good study guide, it is passable. “For the most part, it makes you very aware of how to be safe when flying and how to react to weather and other circumstances,” he says.

“I was amazed at everything that goes into preparing to fly a drone,” he adds. “Much of it is similar to airplanes for the knowledge you need to receive your remote pilot certificate from the FAA.”

The training and exam don’t have a lot to do with flying the drone, Gauck notes. You still need to learn that on your own. “The test focuses more on when and where you can fly the drone,” he says. “From a safety standpoint, I feel it is very good training.”

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