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Western Illinois University student James Rudy (Geneseo, IL), a junior ag major, speaking at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the WIU School of Agriculture Teaching and Research Greenhouse last December. Rudy was one of the WIU ag students who attended the UAV conference.
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WIU Ag Students Get First-Hand Look at Future of UAV Use in Ag Industry Thanks to John Deere Manager

April 1, 2015

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MACOMB, IL — Five students in Western Illinois University's School of Agriculture recently had the opportunity to learn, first hand, some of the agriculture-related applications of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) thanks to Stewart Moorehead from John Deere's Technology Innovation Center (Champaign, IL). On March 4, Ryan Derham (Knoxville, IL), Kaitlyn Hoinacki (Chicago, IL), James Rudy (Geneso, IL), Kenneth Tryggestad (Cherry Valley, IL) and Tyler Vogeler (Dixon, IL) traveled to Dubuque (IA) to attend "Unmanned Systems & Agriculture: Realizing The Field of Dreams," an annual event sponsored by the Heartland Chapter of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). Moorehead served as the keynote speaker at the event.

After learning the WIU School of Agriculture received a UAV through a donation from Munson Hybrids (Galesburg, IL), Moorehead, robotic systems manager at the John Deere Technology Innovation Center, invited the Western students to attend the daylong conference.

"I saw in the news the [WIU School of Ag] had just received a new UAV that you plan to use for precision ag. I will be speaking at [the AUVSI] conference in Dubuque. As a speaker, I received five free passes to the conference for students. …I spoke once at WIU, and since it is close to Dubuque, I wondered if you had any students who might be interested in attending?" Moorehead asked in his initial email message to WIU School of Agriculture Director Andy Baker.

According to the AUVSI website, "the use of unmanned systems within agriculture is booming." Vogeler said he was interested in attending the UAV conference because he also had witnessed increasing UAV use in the agriculture industry.

"I had heard about different practical uses of UAVs that could be very beneficial to the producer, so that is what greatly sparked my interest in attending the conference. Also, last summer, I was taking part in an internship during which they brought one out and took pictures of a field day," Vogeler explained. "At the conference, I learned about was seemed like the unending number of uses for UAVs, such as taking care of orchards, weeding in organic fields and even harvesting corn crops. I hope to apply what I learned from the conference to Western's up-and-coming precision ag program. Also, hopefully, in the future, I will be able to operate a UAV to assist growers in a way they have another weapon to battle against Mother Nature."

Tryggestad said he believes the use of UAVs has lots of potential for ag and was interested in attending the conference because "this is one of the sectors in the ag industry, particularly for scouting, that will become the future."

"There were several presenters and a lot of good information, but what stuck with me the most was the importance of flight stability to ensure accurate data acquisition," Tryggestad noted. "I predict I could use them for anything from crop scouting to surveying land and even monitoring livestock," he added.

Rudy noted that Moorehead's keynote presentation was enlightening, as he discussed some of the possible cutting-edge uses of UAVs in the ag industry.

"After his address, people were asking him what he thought the direction UAVs would go in for agriculture, for example, what new applications people haven't even thought of at this point," Rudy explained. "He explained had been working down in Florida with UAVs and shared a lot of really interesting possibilities with us," he added.

"We were very fortunate to have Dr. Moorehead think of School of Agriculture and our students. I was amazed how quickly our students responded to our message, because we were able to fill the five slots in a matter of 36 hours. This indicates a sincere interest from our students to be actively engaged in their degree programs and affirms our decision to search for a new faculty member whose expertise is in precision agriculture," Baker noted. "We are very excited for the upcoming year to have a faculty member who will be focusing their efforts in UAV activities within the School of Agriculture. I am very proud that Ryan, Kaitlyn, James, Ken and Tyler accepted the challenge to attend this conference. I am also looking forward in working further with John Deere and their activities associated with UAVs."

For more information, contact Baker at (309) 298-1080 or via email at Learn more about the WIU School of Agriculture at

Posted By: Teresa Koltzenburg (
Office of University Communications & Marketing