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Meet the Two Winners of Our 2019 Drone Technology College Scholarship

BY Zacc Dukowitz
22 July 2019

This is the second year we have awarded the Drone Technology College Scholarship, which was created to provide financial support for college students who demonstrate an interest in pushing the drone industry forward.

Just like last year, each of the two scholarship recipients for 2019 will receive $1,000 to support their college studies.

We’re proud to announce the winners in this post—read on to meet our two winners, and to read their winning essays.


We evaluated applicants for our Drone Technology College Scholarship based primarily on the strength of the essay they submitted, which was written on one of three topics:

  • How Drones Can Be Used to Do Good
  • How Drones Will Change Our World Over the Next Ten Years
  • How Drones Can Be Used for STEM Education

Here are the 2019 scholarship winners:

Mikayla Cooper


I grew up in Bluffdale, UT, a small town on the border of Salt Lake County. I have a 1st Year Certificate of Completion in Culinary Arts from Mountainland Applied Technology College and am currently a student at Brigham Young University.

I plan on graduating with a degree in Dietetics in April 2021, and am planning on becoming a Gut and Psychology Syndrome Practitioner, which is basically a dietitian who helps people with mental illnesses including depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and autism.

I have been a drone operator for almost 2 years now and have done work for roofers, landscapers, forensic photographers, a documentary production company based out of France, couples who asked me to film their weddings, real estate agents, and lawyers. I want to use my experiences with drones to help inspire individuals with mental illnesses and help them realize that there is a lot of happiness and joy in life, even though they may not believe that there is or can be. As an individual who has both fought and overcome severe depression and anxiety herself, and then made something out of my life, I want to show others that they can chase their dreams too, despite their challenges. As someone who has been in the shoes of individuals with mental illnesses, I want to show them that I believe in them, and that they can accomplish great things, even though they may not believe in themselves (yet).

Mikayla’s Winning Essay

Essay Topic: How Drones Will Change Our World Over the Next Ten Years

Drones are changing the way the world does business, and they are doing so by changing individual businesses. To explain this concept, let’s look at the story of Doug Cooper, the owner of a roofing company in Salt Lake City. Since 1994, Doug has climbed up on the roofs of many buildings, including multi-story high rises and roofs with pitches so steep he had to hook himself up with safety ropes in order to do his job. When owners of apartment complexes would ask him to give repair estimates for their buildings, he had to manually climb up on each individual roof in the complex to physically inspect them for damage, and would then provide the owners with estimates detailing the work that needed to be done to repair them, and how much it would cost to do so. Sometimes, especially with complexes that had 15-50 buildings, this was a very time-consuming task and could even take several days to complete. Unfortunately, every now and then the owners of the complexes would tell him that they had found someone else to do the job, and did not want his services, even after he had done these inspections and generated a repair estimate for them. As a business owner, husband and father, Doug, like many other entrepreneurs in this world, both did and does not have time to waste time by doing work, and potentially dangerous work at that, for nothing. However, if he did not give free estimates and charged a fee to do so, no one would want to hire him or even ask for an estimate at all. So, for 23 years, Doug conducted free, time-consuming roof inspections in order to generate work for his company, many of which turned out fruitless.

However, that all changed in 2017 when Doug bought his first drone.

With the purchase of a DJI Phantom 4 drone, Doug was excited for the possibilities that this new tool (toy) would bring to his company. But having no time to earn the certification to legally fly it himself for commercial projects, he hired his daughter (me), to obtain the certification and initiate the use of it in his business.

The first mission my Dad and I flew together was for an apartment complex that had tile roofs. The tile roofs had proven to be a stumbling block for the owners of this particular complex, due to the fact that no other roofing company in the area would dare give a repair estimate for any of the roofs. After all, in order to do so, the roofers would have had to climb up on each of the 30 roofs and risk breaking even more tiles under their feet, and causing even more damage. So, the owners hired my Dad and me to assess the damage from the air with the drone, because no other roofing company either would or could do it. While physically climbing up on 30 three-story buildings would usually take about 1-2 days, we flew over and filmed the entire complex in only 17 minutes. We were able to help the owners of that complex not only know where the damage was, but with the footage we took we were able to SHOW them the exact location of the damage and how bad it was, without them having to leave their seat. This had never been done in my Dad’s 23 years of roofing, and for us, it was a huge breakthrough in his business. For the next 2 years since that event, we have filmed many more complexes and high-rise buildings both in a matter of minutes, and from the safety of the ground, which has increased both the efficiency and reputation of his business.

With the drone industry constantly growing, improving, and becoming more technologically advanced, I do not know exactly where it will be at in 10 years, but I am excited to see it. If my Dad and I could take a drone and do something with a machine that he always used to do with his hands, just imagine what it will be like in the next few years as we see more drones improving the work situations of other businesses and workers. Sometimes when I reflect on how the DJI Phantom 4 drone, a now almost outdated model, has blessed my Dad’s life, I can’t help but wonder what other jobs drones will be able to do, and create, in both the near and distant future. How many lives will they eventually save, just by keeping workers out of harm’s way? How many other people will they bless? And who knows, maybe one day we’ll develop a drone that can actually perform the roof repairs, and eliminate the need for anyone to physically climb up on the roofs themselves. At least for my Dad’s and his worker’s sakes, that is what I am rooting for.


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Justin Lehmann


My name is Justin Lehmann and I grew up on a farm/ranch in southeast North Dakota wear my family grows corn, wheat, beans, oats, alfalfa, and also have an angus cow/calf operation.

I just graduated from NDSCS in Wahpeton, ND last week with an associate’s degree in precision agriculture and agronomy. Following my internship this summer I will attend NDSU to continue my education towards a bachelor’s degree in precision agriculture and ag economics. Once I’ve completed college, I hope to get a job as a Precision Agronomist. As a Precision Agronomist I will be working directly with growers to help them maximize their yields while reducing input costs. I will do this by assisting growers in adopting new precision agriculture technologies as well as offering basic and unbiased agronomy knowledge to help farmers do their jobs more easily and effectively.

A technology that I will be very actively offering/assisting growers with will be drones. Using drones, I will be able to help growers get the most out of every acre and help take care of our world’s growing population. As a Precision Agronomist, it will be my responsibility to help take care of our world’s ever-growing food needs as our populations continue to grow at exponential rates. Drone technology is the future of agriculture, and I am very excited to be apart of pushing this great industry forward.

Justin’s Winning Essay

Essay Topic: How Drones Will Change Our World Over the Next Ten Years

According to a study done by The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the world’s population is expected to reach 9.8 billion people by 2050. This means we will have to double the amount of food that we currently produce every year. With roughly 83 million people being added to the world’s population every year, we must be able to find a way to feed all these people. This is a challenge the future leaders in agriculture, including me, will have to continue to overcome. As I pursue my bachelor’s degree, I hope to continue gaining valuable knowledge and skills which will help me solve these problems that we face in agriculture today. As a Precision Agronomist, it will be my responsibility to help solve our world’s ever-growing food needs as our population continues to grow at exponential rates. In order to solve these food production issues, I am going to be using drones paired with other precision agriculture technologies to make the future of agriculture sustainable.

While growing up on a farm in southeast North Dakota, I have developed a strong passion for agriculture and everything it involves. Being raised a farm kid had a huge impact on where I am today and will continue to help guide me towards my future endeavors. After I graduated high school, I knew exactly what I wanted to study in college, agriculture. Specifically, I chose Precision Agriculture and Agronomy. I chose Precision Agriculture because I love learning and using new technology and also because technology is going to be the future of agriculture. Because the world we live in is undergoing new advancements in agriculture daily, there is a huge demand for people who want to learn and use this new technology. One type of technology that has been on the forefront of agriculture is drones. In the past few years drones have helped farmers by being able to see things in their fields that no technology could before. Drones currently have high-resolution cameras and sensors that can collect very specific data that farmers can use to improve their operations. High-resolution imagery performed by drones can provide sub-inch accuracy which proves to be a huge improvement over previous satellite imagery. With this accuracy, drones are now being able to determine plant stands and weed pressure and even capture insects and diseases on plant leaves. When producers receive this data from their fields, they can come up with a solution to the issues in their fields before it becomes a yield-limiting factor. With these new advancements in drone technologies, producers now have one more tool in their toolbox to help them combat the many challenges that producers face today.

As technologies in agriculture become more advanced, future agriculture production will improve, and the job of the farmer will become easier and less stressful. Nowadays, farmers face challenges that have plagued them for years. Anytime a new breakthrough comes out in agriculture that will make their jobs easier or increase their profits, they are usually quick to adopt the technology. As the drone industry progresses, I believe that there are many ideas on the forefront that will make drones very popular in agriculture and make the job of the farmer less stressful. Within 10 years, drone improvements will include the abilities to fly drones faster and higher speeds with high accuracy, abilities to process data faster, abilities for drones to learn using artificial intelligence, and many more endless opportunities. I am extremely excited to be a part of this exciting time in drone technologies and I’m ready to start advancing the industries of precision agriculture and drones.

I chose to study precision agriculture because it’s very rewarding to be able to assist growers in any way possible to help make them more successful and their profits stronger. Throughout my two years at NDSCS I have learned many knew things about agriculture that I never knew existed. As I continue my education in agriculture at NDSU, and soon a career in agriculture, I hope to keep an open mind to new ideas that will arise and challenge myself to ask questions to learn all that I can. The test that lies in the hands of every person in agriculture is how can we do our jobs better in order to keep agriculture sustainable for many future generations to come. As the need for food production increases, the agriculture industry must continue to find ways to overcome many different challenges. With my strong passion for agriculture and technology, I am certain that I will play a significant role in making agriculture more successful and sustainable using drones and other technologies. As a Precision Agronomist I will work directly with growers in helping them produce products that will feed millions of people. It will be my job to ensure that people will always come home to a meal on the table. I am certain that drones will have an impact on the sustainability of agriculture.

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Know a high school student interested in becoming certified to fly drones commercially? Tell them about our High School STEM Scholarship for Aspiring Commercial Drone Pilots.

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