Hamilton County-based Beck’s Hybrids is joining forces with Indiana State University to train 50 unmanned aerial vehicle pilots. The program involves Federal Aviation Administration certification for Beck’s employees to help customers scout crops during growing season.

The company, which opened a new corporate airplane hanger at Indianapolis Executive Airport in Zionsville last year, says it is committed to innovation in the agriculture sector. Light Robotic Manager Jim Love says "through the use of UAVs, we’re able to help them determine cropping patterns and identify issues within their fields. This partnership with Indiana State University will allow us to make sure that the individuals operating those UAVs are trained at the highest level."

ISU has taken a leading position among academic institutions in the region when it comes to emphasis on drone technology. In 2015, the school received FAA approval to fly the vehicles at Terre Haute International Airport-Hulman Field and the Indiana National Guard Muscatatuck Urban Training Center.

ISU’s Center for Unmanned Systems and Human Capital Development was established several years ago and the school’s four-year degree program focusing on UAV tech was the first of its kind in the state. Center Executive Director Richard Baker says "the Federal Aviation Administration’s Part 107 rule has created quite a demand for trained and knowledgeable remote pilots or small UAS operators. ISU is excited about our partnership with Beck’s and we wish them great success. Our faculty and students see this relationship as another way to demonstrate the capabilities of small UAS and their potential impact in food production."

Beck’s calls the school "a perfect partner" for the program and says it has donated a commercial vehicle to ISU.

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