MaryBeth Matzek: Drones find their way into Wisconsin skies, classroom

This is an excerpt from a column posted at BizOpinion

Whether you call them drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), these remote control flying devices are attracting a lot of attention from businesses and the government. While drones first gained notoriety for their military uses during the 2000s, companies in recent years have realized their business potential with the oil, mining and agriculture sectors taking a particular interest in their use.

Drones are attractive to businesses because they allow them to gather information and data easily from a wide area, says Joe Hupy, who will teach a class next fall at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire on drone usage. The class – which is already full – will allows students to work with drones in a safe, structured environment.

He cited a study where experts predicted drones could have an $82 billion economic impact by 2025 thanks to their use in a variety of industries from agriculture and mining to real estate and insurance companies surveying storm damage.

Hupy says given that agriculture is such a large part of the state’s economy that the drone usage will be focused on that. For example, the drones will have equipment that will help the students gather information and data on crop conditions. That information can then be shared with farmers to help them with any problems they may have. He says the class isn’t just about teaching the “nuts and bolts” of how to fly a drone, but to also think critically about the information gathered using it.

Beyond helping farmers check what’s happening in the fields, drones also can be used in marketing efforts. Freedom-based Milk Source LLC used a drone to record footage for a video later posted on social media at Rosendale Dairy in Fond du Lac County, the state’s largest dairy.

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