Drones are growing tech toys that are fascinating people. While they have been mainly for personal use, some people in the agricultural industry feel it could be a game changer.
The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (this group represents producers of drones) predicted eventually 80% of drone sales will be used in agriculture. They say due to the expanses that farms cover, drones are a great way to save time and labor while viewing fields.
Drones can be equipped with infrared cameras to detect heat, to make sure plants are growing and not stressed. They have GPS installed to map out a field border. Drones can find insect or watering issues and send coordinates of the problem area to the farmer. Drones can even be sent to look for an animal that may have wandered away from the herd.
With additional add-ons, drones could even be used for applying pesticides, herbicides and other various applications to crops. This is called “precision agriculture”. Using drones, farmers are able to save money by not overusing their resources. The drone applies the product evenly and only over areas within the border of the field. It never goes over the same area twice. This is also better for the environment as well because it creates less run-off.
However, as promising as drones look for the agricultural industry, we are still a way off from using them regularly. Drones are such a new product that there are few laws and rules about their use. The FAA is still working on regulations for flying these objects. Farms are generally owned by the farmer, which means there aren’t privacy issues to worry about (i.e. Flying over someone else’s land). Also, if drones are used in any way to make money, they then take on a commercial status. As of now, drones cannot be used commercially, which limits what farmers can legally use them for.
Drones are even becoming so popular that Cornell Cooperative Extension has partnered with the National 4-H Council to create a program called Drone Discovery. This program covers the various uses for drones and how it applies to community needs. Participants conduct experiments as well as design, build, and test drone models they create.
Boscia, Ted. “Cornell Partners on 4-H National Youth Science Day.” Cornell Chronicle
Doering, Christopher. “Growing Use of Drones Poised to Transform Agriculture.” USA Today