“I actually didn’t want to go to York because everyone else in my family did,” Morris said with a smile. He wanted to make his own path and go somewhere that he could be his own person.

“But when I got a call from Dr. Turnbull about the agribusiness program,” he went on to say, “as well as the opportunities to be involved through the theatre tech program, running lights and sound for them, and through the business club (PBL) — those three things hit me all at once and I thought, ‘This is where I need to be.’”

Fast forward a couple of years and Morris is now a junior agribusiness major at York College and an active leader on campus. Recruited as a PBL Scholar, he was runner-up at the 2021 Nebraska Phi Beta Lambda Leadership Conference in Client Services, qualifying for Nationals where he placed sixth this summer, and he serves this year as Vice President of the York PBL Chapter. He has plans over the next several weeks to be busy running the sound board for the Homecoming musical. And if that’s not enough, he was recently elected to serve as the male junior rep for student government.

All the aforementioned would be in and of themselves good reasons to do a story on the very busy and talented Caden Morris. But wait… there’s more! Let’s throw into the mix numerous fast-spinning propeller blades, geographic mapping, multispectral imaging sensors, and intense high-flying situations just for fun. 

Now that’s a story!

Or we could just say that he works with very large drones, but where’s the fun in that?

If you’re asking Morris, he’d probably say, “Loads.”

“I’ve been working at Midwest Research since my freshman year doing basic research data collection. Then last winter I eased myself into talking about drones at work as well as bought one of my own. The owner knew of my interest and gave me the opportunity to go to Iowa City last winter for training on the Agras drone. And I thought, this would be a cool summer job.”

Morris put in about 40-50 hours/week during the summer and a fourth of that time with the imposing Agras MG-1P RTK drone that boasts 8 propellers, spans more than 5’ in diameter, and weighs roughly 20 pounds.  Asked if it had a nickname, Morris said they just call it, ‘Big Drone,’… all at the jaw dropping price tag of roughly $25,000-$30,000.

“I had to get my pilot’s license because it’s a commercial application,” he said without hesitation. “You just have to yield to pilots’ right-of-way, which this time of year is fine. But when crop dusters are going, it’s a little bit of a handful.”

Then he added, “But this one’s not too bad because you usually only take it 20 feet off the ground at most.”

Morris scooped about 20 pounds of a winter wheat seed blend into the bin mounted at the base of the drone, shut the lid, and stepped to a safe distance holding an impressive looking remote control. The drone lifted to a height of about 10 feet in the air, made straight for the edge of a field and started broadcasting the cover crop seed into standing soybeans.

He looked to be a seasoned pro, piloting a very expensive piece of hardware up and down the trial plot, never varying in his mission. In reality, he just pushed a button to make it go. The complexities of the drone flying the systematic route lie in the programming, software applications, and GPS technology.

Morris explained, “We have a smaller Phantom drone that connects to the RTK base station and its GPS accuracy is within 1-2 cm. I take the drone up about 200 feet in the air and it takes thousands of pictures of the area and then stitches it together kind of like google maps does. And on top of that we can draw the map that we want the drone to fly, upload it to the Cloud and then send it to Big Drone.”

I thought to myself, and maybe even said it out loud, “How cool is that?!”

When Morris was asked how he got into this field of work, he replied, “I’ve always been interested in agriculture so this job was a pretty easy transition. I’ve learned a lot. Drones fascinate me at what they can do and applying them. I jumped right in and taught myself and made a 6-page user manual for this specific drone — that way if I move on to something else I can pass this on and train someone else on it.”

Morris was specific about his aspirations when questioned about what the future holds.

“I’m liking this drone stuff so I’m looking at companies that do plant health analysis with drones. They use multispectral imaging cameras mounted to the drones and get the different spectrals of colors to manage crops, diagnose problems, and help farmers be more efficient.”

After last week’s announcement at the Presidential Inauguration concerning the college’s future brand, Morris is looking forward to graduating in December 2022 as one of the first with a York University degree.

So you might be able to say that he didn’t just follow a family tradition after all.