Salamanca Students with Drone

Salamanca City School District was recently awarded funding to purchase a specialized inspection drone for their Agricultural Landscaping program. 

The grant was presented as part of Cornell University's Agriculture Education, and Outreach initiative, which provides teachers and school districts funding to implement innovative agriculture science (AS) projects that will deeply engage students, according to information released by the organization. 

Projects awarded under the program must focus on applied learning with Agriculture Science Technology, creating or implementing an innovative Agricultural Science learning program, or facilitate agriculture skill development for children in middle and high schools. 

According to Deputy Superintendent Dr. Mark Beehler, the drone will be used for teaching agriculture inspection in one of their premier project SAMI programs, a new college certificate initiative, which is anticipated to launch in October this school year.   

"We are trying to teach students the latest workforce applications of advanced Unmanned Aircraft System," Beehler said, "especially as it has to do with agricultural and utility system inspections. Drone & GIS technology can take local farming operations to the next level." 

The new equipment will provide opportunities for 3D mapping the health of plants in agricultural or wilderness swatches of land and gather specialized data to superimpose on a GIS map immediately.   

"Before a farmer begins planting, a drone can allow our students to measure the topography of the property with photogrammetry, to generate 3D maps land to advise best practices for plot management," said Salamanca’s STEAM coordinator Aaron Straus. "After crops are planted, the multispectral camera can create Vegetation Index (VI) maps to reveal critical information about the crops too.”  

Straus says NDVI is calculated based on the amount of near-infrared (NIR) light reflected from the leaves of the crops.  

“Healthy leaves reflect more NIR light, while sickly, stressed, or dry leaves absorb more NIR light. An NDVI map captured and generated by a drone, depending on its resolution, can show which parts of the fields, which plants, or even which parts of individual plants need attention. With this insight, students can advise farmers how where to tend to crops' thirst early before problems become severe." 

Other topics covered in the Project SAMI Agriculture & Inspections certificate program include horticulture, plant morphology, soil, fertilizers & land sustainability.  

To learn more about Salamanca City School District, please visit the school district's website,