Drone: A Farmer’s Best Friend

There is one specific field wherein the use of drones can also be of great benefit: the farm. In fact, many farmers in different places around the world including Japan have already started using drones.

Likewise in the Unites States even without FAA’s explicit go-signal, farmers are relying on drones to help them check for the health of their crops and vegetations, for example. The drone is fast becoming a farmer’s best friend.

“Precision agriculture” has emerged as a term for farming supported by drones that are small, can fly or hover very close to crops, or monitor growth with infrared imagers and other sensors. Yet because the Federal Aviation Administration is not allowing drone operators in the U.S. to fly for commercial purposes, drone agricultural experiments have been limited to places like Canada, Australia, Japan and Brazil. Read more here

This week saw the first-ever FAA-sanctioned test flight for agriculture. In attendance was John Nowatzki, an agricultural machine systems specialist at North Dakota State University. He says getting regulatory approval for the test took months. The FAA has tried to ban the commercial use of drones while it tests and writes new rules, but lots of farmers aren’t waiting, Nowatzki says. “I don’t think they are following all the rules,” he says. “But on the other hand, they are certainly being conscious of any issues that might be dangerous.”  Read more here

How can drones be useful for farmers?
Drones can provide farmers with three types of detailed views. First, seeing a crop from the air can reveal patterns that expose everything from irrigation problems to soil variation and even pest and fungal infestations that aren’t apparent at eye level. Second, airborne cameras can take multi-spectral images, capturing data from the infrared as well as the visual spectrum, which can be combined to create a view of the crop that highlights differences between healthy and distressed plants in a way that can’t be seen with the naked eye. Finally, a drone can survey a crop every week, every day, or even every hour. Combined to create a time-series animation, that imagery can show changes in the crop, revealing trouble spots or opportunities for better crop management. Read more here

It looks like the FAA is slowly responding to the growing need of drones in farming, but this latest approval of the agency for a test flight is already a step ahead.

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