Drones help former center improve agriculture, Saluki football

By Thomas Donley, @tdonleyDE

Tanner Crum saw Saluki football from the middle of the action as a starting offensive lineman from 2011 to 2014. Now, he sees it from more angles.

Crum is a strength and conditioning graduate assistant with Saluki Athletics. He also is working in the College of Agricultural Sciences as a graduate student where he does work with unmanned aerial vehicles on behalf of John Deere.

In agriculture, UAVs use cameras to monitor crops from above. A job that has traditionally been done by a crop scout walking through fields can now be done from one spot with this technology.


The UAVs can determine through different filters on their cameras what areas of certain fields are not receiving enough nutrients or have more weeds or diseased crops.

Crum has used UAV technology on the field by using a drone in practice during training camp to give coach Dale Lennon an extra angle to watch practice.

Senior quarterback Mark Iannotti said he is intrigued by the potential use of drones in sports moving forward.

“It’s definitely some interesting stuff,” Iannotti said. “I think it’s going to be a new, innovative idea for teams to get right up in the action for film study purposes.”

Crum’s family owns farmland in central Illinois. He did not grow up on a farm, but he’s spent plenty of time working on them. He said the UAV program is uncharted territory for both him and SIU but his connections give him an advantage.

“My professors told me they thought I would be a good candidate for the program,” Crum said. “They referred to me as a ‘test subject.’ I know a lot of people in southern Illinois, from farmers to regular people, and they feel like I have a good network that would help me in that field.”

Iannotti — who took snaps from Crum last season — said Crum has plenty of intelligence.

“The stuff a center has to be accountable for is huge,” Iannotti said. “He was in charge of the offense, basically, so I can see the intelligence factor there, and I’m glad it transfers to the classroom for him.”

Chris Clemons, one of Crum’s graduate work advisors, thinks the introduction of UAV technology will expand the job market in agriculture.

“This is the next step,” Clemons said. “What we’re allowing to happen is an additional tool, just as GPS 20 years ago was an additional tool that we’ve all come to adopt.”

Thomas Donley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @tdonleyDE.