High School Student Works On Drone That Assists Farmers


Check out the story on my project!

How’s this for an entrepreneurial spirit and a sharp mind? Evan Palmer, a sophomore over at Amherst High School, is currently developing a fixed-wing drone that will be able to survey crops in Amherst when it is completed. This particular drone will be paired to an infrared camera and 3D mapping software so that it makes life easier for farmers to identify crop issues.

This particular project kicked off after Palmer applied for a $1,000 grant from the Nebraska Farm Bureau, which was duly rewarded to him. Apart from that, Palmer also managed to gain the attention of other sponsors who have since done their bit to assist in the construction of the drone via donations. Palmer also gleaned wisdom from online forums to figure out the drone’s building process as well as required parts, and from there, he shared, “I started to get a basic idea of what I needed for the drone. From there, I started building a components list.”

Palmer further explained that he picked the fixed wing because it will be able to cover a larger area in less time, which is always a good thing where efficiency is concerned. A normalized difference vegetation index imaging system was picked to use infrared photos of crops as an indicator of their health status. This allows farmers on the ground to check out crop health from above without having to walk through their plantation all day long, and will also allow them to make decisions on the spot concerning crop health.

Nebraska Farm Youth of the Month


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Comment by Gary McCray on June 12, 2016 at 1:40pm

Hi Evan,

Great project and excellent choice for an airframe.

Could you share some more details and photos of your build?

Many of the people here at DIYDrones are heavily involved in Ag and NIR and I am sure would be happy to advise or at least offer some thoughts.

Best Regards,

Gary McCray

Comment by Darrell Burkey on June 12, 2016 at 3:04pm

Your post caught my attention because it looks like we are about the same stage in our projects, see http://diydrones.com/profiles/blogs/mapping-rural-australia. So you'll find lots of help around here as the X8 for mapping is very popular. I was also interested because my family is from Grant Neb (around 1900's) and I remember visiting as a kid. The video said you'd be flying earlier this year. How did that go? Keep up the great work!

Comment by Evan Palmer on June 12, 2016 at 8:06pm
It looks like your project is going very welI Mr. Burkey! You'll have to share more about it with me! I do know where Grant is too. That's cool that your family is from there.
Comment by Evan Palmer on June 13, 2016 at 5:49pm

Comment by Evan Palmer on June 13, 2016 at 6:03pm

Here are a few pictures of my build. As you can see, I made the top part of the drone detachable. I did this in order to make the parts more accessible. The blue plastic pieces are parts that I printed off. I made an airspeed sensor holder, a part to hold my X8R receiver antennas, and also servo covers. I made a wood panel to mount the majority of my electrical components to. I have a Lidar Range Finder as well as my camera below. I'm using a Canon S100 and will be using the DroneDeploy software for my image processing. If anyone has any questions or ideas about my build I would love to hear them.

Comment by Andrew Murphy on June 13, 2016 at 6:51pm

Can you show some pics of the printed parts? Man i would have killed for this kind of tech when i was in high school. 

Comment by Gary McCray on June 13, 2016 at 6:52pm

Hi Evan,

It looks like a very competent build.

If you are not already planning on doing so, I would strongly suggest to not include any of the expensive gear unnecessary to flight (cameras, Lidar, etc) when first testing the plane.

I know the Lidar can be considered a valuable flight instrument, but you are much better off flying your initial flights in full manual mode without any autonomous modes.

Stabilize is OK, but build up to the autonomous modes gradually.

That is my method in any case, because however more complex you make the system the more likely it is to demonstrate any faults.

And if most of your expensive electronics are still in your toolbox, at least it doesn't cost as much to get it going again.

It is probably best if once you have confidence in manual and stabilize, build up to full functionality cautiously and gradually.

There are others who think full autonomous mode is OK straight off the bat, usually with $1300.00 DJI Phantom P4's, my take is that they are far readier to kiss $1300.00 goodbye than I am.

I operate the web site dronesarefun.com You might find some useful information there.

in particular this page and the ones after it might be useful: http://dronesarefun.com/AirplaneOverview.html

Best Regards,


Comment by Evan Palmer on June 13, 2016 at 7:11pm

Comment by Evan Palmer on June 13, 2016 at 7:15pm

Here are some pictures of servo covers and airspeed sensor holder. I understand that most people like to put their airspeed sensors towards the front of the plane or wing, but I wanted to keep from running into the ground on landings. This also is helping for balance. It was rather a pain to get these printed actually. I used our schools printer, but at the time it was broken. I had to spend a few days getting it working again!

Comment by Evan Palmer on June 13, 2016 at 7:23pm

Thank you for sharing this with me Mr. McCray! I didn't plan to put all of my components on during my first few flights, but I'll make sure to go through and be careful with what I start with. I was planning to start using flight modes relatively soon after getting the hang of flying, but I'm glad you suggested waiting until I am more comfortable. That seems to be a safer route. I'll check out your website, thanks again for sharing!


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