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NDSU specialist gives unmanned aerial systems presentation at international conference

Photo of John Nowatzki


John Nowatzki, NDSU Extension agricultural machine systems specialist in the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, led a presentation on unmanned aerial systems at the Internet2 Global Summit in Washington, D.C., April 23-26. He gave an overview of the use of the aircraft to support contemporary practices in precision agriculture.

According to Nowatzki, precision agriculture for crop production is creating large quantities of digital data, as farmers use computers with Global Positioning System input to record both crop input information and harvest data. In addition to in-field data, crop producers use various types of remote sensing to monitor crop growth and identify crop growth stages, nutrient deficiencies, pest infestations, damage and various crop anomalies.

Presenters during the session described how they are managing precision agricultural data associated with research projects in North Dakota. Collaborators include the NDSU Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, Information Technology Division, Center for Computationally Assisted Science and Technology, Elbit Systems of America and the Northern Plains UAS Test Site.

Nowatzki highlighted examples of collaborative projects between the university and private sector partners to collect, manage and analyze producers’ crop digital data over large areas, delivering real-time information to producers to use for strategic in-season and future years’ crop production decisions. Collaborators use large and small unmanned aircraft systems, known as UAS, to collect high-resolution imagery for use with producers’ crop production data in precision field crop management decisions.

The NDSU precision agricultural team is collaborating with Elbit Systems of America to collect remote sensing imagery at 50,000 acres per hour using the Hermes 450 unmanned aircraft. The Hermes 450, flying at 8,000 feet altitude, generates approximately one terabyte of imagery per hour. Project personnel collaborate with private sector partners to collect, manage, analyze and transfer the agricultural digital crop data.

The UAS precision agriculture pilot project is dependent on access to local and regional research and education networks to successfully implement project activities. Research and education networks supporting the project include North Dakota's state government and education network and the Northern Tier regional network that provides support for data transfer and analysis needs critical to collaboration among project partners.

Internet2 is a member-owned advanced technology and research community founded by the nation's leading higher education institutions in 1996. Internet2 consists of more than 250 U.S. universities, 80 leading corporations, 70 affiliate members and government agencies, 39 regional and state education networks and more than 65 national research and education networking partners representing more than 100 countries.

For more information, contact Nowatzki at; Sreekala Bajwa, chair of agricultural and biosystems engineering, at; or Kim Owen, IT research and education network resources program manager, at

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