Most people in the industry understand that drones will have a huge impact on agricultural processes. After reading “Why 2015 is the year agriculture drones take off,” it’s clear Fortune magazine thinks the impact will be felt this year.
For years now, drone advocates have cited precision agriculture—crop management that uses GPS and big data—as a way to boost crop yields and profits while resolving water and food crises. Unfortunately, for all the hype surrounding the concept drones haven’t had a significant impact on the agriculture business, at least, until now.
With the debut of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Section 333 exemption (which permits companies to fly drones commercially on a case-by-case basis) in November that’s poised to change, particularly in the United States. For the first time agriculture drones will legally be able to gather widespread data across an entire growing season, allowing companies to test their business models and technologies together for the first time—and ideally make a profit in the process.
Farms.com produced this report focused on “ways to scout corn firelds from above” with drones.
Farms.com Corn Report: Innovative Ways To Scout Corn Fields From Above With A UAV Drone
Drone Watchdogs reports that this is an interesting aspect of drones for many farmers. Drones could be used to monitor crops over a large area, and perhaps cheaply replace crop dusters. They’d be able to cover the same ground as a helicopter or small plane, but at a lower cost.
The biggest hurdle, according to PrecisionHawk communications director Lia Reich, is misinformation.
Many people still think of drones as spying, killing, sneaking machines, government-operated robots to rob citizens of their privacy and autonomy. As long as there’s a fear attached to the word “drones,” bans and limitations will be a problem.
According to the Augusta Chronicle, over 150 bills have been proposed in the last year alone, centered around regulating where drones can go and what they can do.
In fact, according to the Star Tribune, regulations may be one of the biggest difficulties farmers who hope to purchase drones for their crops will face.
Specifically, the current FAA regulations make it illegal for most farmers to operate drones. Current regulations for safety and privacy make drones a touchy subject in many places. However, this is a matter in progress. Farmers and FAA officials are working together right now to ensure that new regulations will allow drones to be used to monitor crops, without invading the privacy of neighbors.
Still, once the details are sorted out, the possibilities are pretty exciting. Farmers say they could replace daily walks of their entire fields with a fly-over, and drones can transfer data directly to a tablet computer, so the information can be seen while drones are still in-flight.
Some farms may purchase their own drones for use on their land, and others may hire businesses that will surface to run drones for them for a fee, simply turning over the information on a daily basis.
If America can get past the fear of drones, these machines may soon make a difference in your grocery dollar.
When you read the Drone Watch article, it’s easy to see how the Inquisitr would take it positively. In this article, it’s clear even Drone Watch recognizes the benefits that drones can provide.
Commercial drone flight could be legal in as soon as a year, and agriculture appears likely to be first to see the most significant impact. It’s a lot simpler and safer to fly a drone over a soybean field than to deliver a package in a crowded city.
Fortune magazine’s article indicated 2015 will be the year drones begin to impact agriculture on a large scale, first through exemptions and then through the lifting of the key commercially limiting regulations. I’d have to agree with this observation.
If you’ve been considering working the drone/UAV industry, specifically in agriculture, we recommend our GIS/Mapping program. Drone Universities can provide you with the very best, hands-on education. For drone university graduates that complete their LSA (Light-sport Aircraft) Certification, we offer our Commercially Ready Pilot program that includes a free Section 333 Waiver petition*. Graduates of our Commercially Ready Pilot program that receive their 333 Exemption can work commercially immediately after graduation.
Update: While researching new drone stories, I found “Farm use of drones to take off as feds loosen restrictions.”
Watching a flying demonstration on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the Missouri farmer envisions using an unmanned aerial vehicle to monitor the irrigation pipes on his farm — a job he now pays three men to do.
“The savings on labor and fuel would just be phenomenal,” Geske says, watching as a small white drone hovers over a nearby corn field and transmits detailed pictures of the growing stalks to an iPad.
Nearby, farmer Chip Bowling tries his hand at flying one of the drones. Bowling, president of the National Corn Growers Association, says he would like to buy one for his Maryland farm to help him scout out which individual fields need extra spraying.
Another farmer, Bobby Hutchison, says he is hoping the man he hires weekly to walk his fields and observe his crops gets a drone, to make the process more efficient and accurate.
“I see it very similar to how I saw the computer when it first started,” says Hutchison, 64. “It was a no-brainer.”
My favorite part of that last quote? When the 64 year old farmer said, “It was a no-brainer.”
1. Retail value $6,500.