UAVs in Multi-Disciplinary Agricultural Research and Outreach: Cutting-Edge Technology for Real World Challenges

College of Agricultural Sciences

Colorado Water Center



(Delta, Dolores, Grand)

Primary Topic:

Food and Agriculture

Other Topics:

Natural Resources and Sustainability

Lead Mentor:  

Perry Edmund Cabot

Extension Professor

Internship Overview:

The internship will support researchers and extension professionals utilizing drone technology to develop innovative management strategies that allow producers to optimize production, reduce costs, and protect the environment. The team will utilize the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (drone) around two primary Research Foci in regard to challenging issues in Western Colorado, such as the need for enhanced crop production systems, innovative sustainable agriculture and food systems, increasing resilience to climate change, protection of environmental resources, and efficient use of water resources. The value proposition of this project is to expand the capability and influence of CSU, by equipping our Western Colorado units to engage in UAV-enabled research and training projects that are disadvantaged by the lack of training in this technology.

Goals, Scope and Objectives:

The intern will work with a team to develop expertise, training and application of drone imagery to provide farmers with immediate feedback on crop health, water stress, and pest pressure. One objective of the project will be to utilize drone technology throughout the summer, developing an understanding of spectral signatures, energy footprints, crop stress behavior and targeted evaluations necessary to fully apply these tools at broader scales. Another objective will be to train local producers in the applicability of these tools to their current management experiences and farming needs. Lastly, a third objective will be to develop Extension and Engagement materials meant to capture the lessons we have learned through the summer and contribute to the body of knowledge that exists on the primary CSU campus.

With which stakeholder group(s) will the intern work?

Dominant local partners will include Gunnison County ranchers and producers, Mesa County farmers and producers, Colorado River District, and The Nature Conservancy. Access to state-of-the-art UAV imaging capacity and data processing will substantially improve the capability of the WCRC to engage in impactful research in Western Colorado. Colorado State University is poised to use this technology with pilot training through the CSU Drone Center (

What student learning outcomes do you anticipate and what are the opportunities for professional development?

The intern will learn data collection techniques using field instrumentation for collecting information on assessing water consumptive use, crop stress patterns, pest and week pressures, as well as other signature issues relating to precision farming with innovative technology. The student will also perform QA/QC of raw field data for the purpose of later publication in fact sheets, technical reports or publications. The student will have the experience of working with a diverse group of stakeholders, all of whom are interested in adopting novel farming techniques in the Upper Colorado River Basin. Other students who have participated in similar projects have obtained positions in consulting, government agencies and graduate programs. The student will likely be using one of the better technologies available, such as the fixed-wing UAV manufactured by Parrot (; multi-spectral camera by DJI ( or Micasense (; and image stitching software by PIX4D ( Support for Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) will also be integral to this project. Throughout the applied research process, it will be important to recognize areas of improvement through a DEI lens. This will be an opportunity to contribute input on questions like: 1) who is in the room/space?; 2) whose voices are being left out in these spaces?, and; 3) what are alternative approaches to providing a solution? The on-campus mentor (Elias G. Quiñonez) will engage intern through dialogue in their weekly meetings to briefly share some reflective moments in this area.
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