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ISU receives $179,000 IGEM grant for project with J.R. Simplot Company to use Unmanned Aircraft Sensors to expand ag market opportunities

April 22, 2015
ISU Marketing and Communications

Idaho State University received a $179,000 grant from the state’s Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission (IGEM) to pursue a project with the J.R. Simplot Company to use unmanned aircraft sensors (UAS) to improve agricultural field productivity and grower profitability.

From left, Scott Rasmussen, dean of the ISU College of Technology, Donna Delparte, ISU assistant professor of geosciences, and Shane Slack, Coordinator/Instructor ISU College of Technology Robotics and Communications Systems Engineering Technology with UAS. (Photo by Bethany Baker, ISU Photographic Services)“The key competitive advantages of this project are high-resolution, high-speed imaging and analysis compared to other systems,” said Donna Delparte, ISU assistant professor of geosciences. “We will develop processes and algorithms to enhance UAS-based remote sensing data in ways that improve profitability and sustainability for growers.”

IGEM’s mission is to create new enterprises and high-paying, knowledge-based economy jobs by increasing strategic areas of research and development through targeted partnerships among industry, higher education and government that leverage new and existing resources.

The official title of the project is “Expanding Precision Agriculture Market Opportunities with Unmanned Aircraft System Sensors.”

J.R Simplot Co. roles and responsibilities for the project include in-kind contributions including grower and industry relations, field scouting, soil mapping, tissue collection and sampling, and agronomic consulting.

“The J.R. Simplot Company and Idaho State University partnership plans to be at the forefront of this transformative moment in history to conduct research using UAS sensors to improve agricultural field productivity and grower profitability,” said Allan Fetters, director of technology at J.R. Simplot Company.

The ISU Department of Geosciences roles and responsibilities are in Geographic Information System (GIS), UAS and remote sensing expertise, data collection, processing and analysis.

The ISU College of Technology will provide electronic and mechanical support services including the design and maintenance of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), communications and control systems, development and testing of sensors, and maintenance and repair of power systems.

The Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International claims in their 2013 report that the economic impact of the UAS industry could be $82.1 billion between 2015 and 2018 with 103,776 new jobs created by 2025. Agriculture is anticipated to be the largest growth sector. In Idaho alone there are more than 3 million acres of irrigated croplands.

“ISU can exploit its advantage in UAS and spectral image processing to accelerate development of a new system,” said Scott Rasmussen, dean of the ISU College of Technology. “Thus, ISU and Simplot have penetrated a niche area with enormous potential. Funding through IGEM will leverage our current investment to position Idaho as a national leader in UAS applications for precision agriculture.”


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