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April 13, 2018 10:00 PM

Learning To Fly

Learning to fly could help some college students really soar in their careers. A new class at South Dakota State University is focusing on a growing technology: drones. You've seen them a lot these last few years, and viewers have even given KELOLAND News their drone video. Now students are honing in on drones, because they say they could be a big piece in the workforce. 

Think about your time in college. Did you ever have a class that let you have a video game control? 

"I had one guy tell me, you know, that's a really crappy video game. I say, you know, it's not a video game. It's a simulator," Joel Barker, geography major, said. 

A simulator with real benefits. Joel Barker's love for the earth began with someone who has loved him from the beginning: his grandma.

"Just her love for the garden and you know, pairing up trees so they'd pollinate each other, really got me interested in natural sciences," Barker said. 

He followed the natural progression of his education, which led him to this geography class. Now he's learning how to fly a drone. 

"It's something everyone is getting into," Barker said. 

Intro to Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems is one of three courses that'll give Barker 12 college credits and a UAS certification. Unfortunately, it was too windy to actually take a drone outside during the time KELOLAND News shot this story. However, this simulator isn't exactly a breeze. It monitors and grades Barker on his precise movements and how he handles flying in different conditions. 

"Just refine those skills, because your point of view is always changing," Barker said. 

As Barker sees it, this class will make him more marketable in the geography field, and prepare him for getting a drone license through the FAA. 

"Right now, we're just, you know, starting with this. This is new technology. It's growing exponentially," Bruce Millet, instructor, said. 

It comes in handy for emergency responders, farmers and journalists, KELOLAND News has found out many times. 

"I'm thinking primarily if you have some kind of natural disaster or something like that. Some place where you can't send someone in immediately," Millet said. 

That idea brought Ian Lack, a journalism major, to this geography class. 

"For me, within journalism, I think drones are going to become huge in terms of, you know, photography, videography," Lack said. 

During a Facebook video call, he described how this machine with a little camera is showing him a bigger picture. 

"Everything online is pretty much visual. If you're not running a news story online, without some kind of graphic or visual, it's basically not going to get picked up in any respect," Lack said. 

Barker agrees. 

"You can use these drones for remote sensing applications, like I said, instead of using a satellite. You can use it much closer. Get a better resolution. It's like aerial photography," Barker said. 

How does Barker's grandma feel about him following in her footsteps? She's proud, but Barker still remains down to earth about it. 

Brady Mallory: "You're her favorite grandchild right?"
Barker: "If she sees this, maybe. I don't know."

In all seriousness, as Barker thinks about his time in college, this video game of sorts is giving him more control over his future. 

"I'm always passionate about learning something new, and adding to that skill set," Barker said. 
© 2018 KELOLAND TV. All Rights Reserved.

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