Unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, were the entertainment at the Boone County Extension Service annual meeting Wednesday morning. Members of the 4-H Micro Quadcopter Spark Club demonstrated their prowess at the tiniest of drones.

Ian Malicoat said the micro quadcopter club grew out of his fascination with the remote control aviation 4-H club.

“I learned how to fly an RC airplane,” Malicoat, 14, said. “I built it from scratch. After that, I started to get into drones because you can fly those in smaller spaces. You don’t have to have a massive field to go fly it.”

He took his idea for a Spark Club to Pandora Woodward, the 4-H Youth Coordinator, to see if it could be a Spark Club. Spark Clubs are educational projects for 4-H to explore new programs, Woodward said.

“A 4-H Spark Club is an educational experience that has to be six hours long,” Woodward said. “There’s no 4-H rules, no 4-H fair project and it’s all about hands on learning with adults.”

The club received two grants to help with the costs. One was from the Boone REMC Operation Round Up and an endowment grant from the 4-H program. The money was used to purchase some extra pieces to repair broken drones.

The club was invited to demonstrate at the Indiana Rural Caucus meeting, which is made up of state legislators who meet during the Indiana State Fair to listen to testimony and discuss issues facing the state’s rural communities.

“We’re the first micro quadcopter club in the state,” Woodward said.

Members need to pay the 4-H fee and then purchase their own micro quadcopter. They cost between $150 and $200. For the bigger drones, an operator needs a pilot license. However, micro drones must weigh less than 5 pounds, so the youth don’t need a pilot license. Also, the micro drones can be flown indoors.

The 13 club members who met twice a month from February through the fair, started out with learning how to assemble the machines and then learned about flying them on a simulator. These types of drones have a video camera so operators can see where they are going. A charge only lasts a few minutes, so multiple batteries are nice.

By the end of the first year, members were racing their micro quadcopters through an obstacle course.

“I’m pursuing a pilot license right now,” Ian said. “I’d like to go to school for aeronautical engineering.”

Drones are becoming increasingly important in many industries, from deliveries to military applications. In agriculture, larger drones are being used for yield mapping. Extension Director Curt Emanuel said UAVs can be used to determine what areas of a field are not yielding as much crop and they can do it in season instead of waiting for harvest.

In other business for the annual meeting, the Boone County Extension Board voted Bob Guernsey and Dustin Plunkett as board members. Bruce Guernsey, Dean Lamb, Faith Lamb and Dominic Seppel were recognized for their service to the board as outgoing members.

Joan Hysong was awarded the Friend of the Extension award for 2019. Hysong had been involved as an extension homemaker since 1962 and was known as the caterer of the fairgrounds. She helped remodel the commercial kitchens and started the Beehive after the remodel of the fairground buildings.

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