Small unmanned aircraft systems (UAV), better known as drones, hold great promise for agriculture, Kansas State University agronomist Kevin Price told farmers at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 95th Annual Convention.
Agriculture applications for drones in development include data collection on crop health, vigor and yields; tracking the spread of invasive plant species; and monitoring cattle feedlots. Data collection of field images by cameras mounted on drones is extremely accurate—to within 1 inch— Price said.
“The biggest challenge is extracting useful data from the ‘tons’ of it that is collected,” Price said. “New software needs to be created that can take data and transform it into useful information.”
The economic potential of drones is tremendous in terms of precision agriculture but will not be realized without approval from the Federal Aviation Administration. States with the most agriculture stand to reap the greatest benefits from the technology.
“About 80 percent of economic income from drone technology will be in agriculture,” Price said.
Drone technology continues to develop rapidly while costs are declining, Price explained. However, he cautioned farmers that many companies are attempting to capitalize on the strong interest in drone technology by selling the wrong UAV or actually unsophisticated miniature aircraft to anyone who will buy them just to make a quick buck.