Ag enters the Drone Era


In case you haven’t heard, lots of folks are droning on about the great potential for the use of drones in agriculture.

The politically correct term is actually Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, or UAV, but drone still seems to be the preferred word, despite any negative connotations it may have.

When it comes to the potential for agriculture, Kansas State University precision agriculture specialist Dr. Kevin Price thinks the growth in the next few years “is gonna blow your socks off.”

“About 80% of the money that will be spent on the unmanned aircraft systems will be spent in the area of agriculture. There are ten times more applications in agriculture then there is in any of the other application areas,” said Dr. Price. “They’re predicting it’s going to be close to a 100 billion dollar industry by the year 2025.”

He said agriculture applications for drones in development include data collection on crop health and yields, nitrogen and chemical applications, spot treating of insects and disease, and much more. Data collection of field images by cameras mounted on drones within an inch of accuracy.

Dr. Price says the cost of a UAV, depending on the type, can range from under $1000 to as much as $12,000, but the returns could make it worth the price tag. “We believe that if we can save a farmer even one percent, the technology will pay for itself very quickly,” he said, adding it could be as much as three percent in terms of saving on fertilizer costs and catching diseases earlier.

While there is great good potential for drone use in agriculture, there is also concerns about abuse or misuse, such as the government or activists using them to gather data on farming operations. That’s why the American Farm Bureau adopted new policy on drones at the recent annual meeting, supporting the use for commercial agricultural but opposing government use of drones for regulatory enforcement, litigation or natural resource inventory surveys. AFBF delegates also advocate consent requirements for drone users flying over private land.

“There’s no question this technology is moving forward and moving fast,” said Dr. Price. “FAA is scrambling to set some regulations so this doesn’t become like the wild west with people doing lots of crazy things with it.

Disclaimer: Articles featured on Oregon Report are the creation, responsibility and opinion of the authoring individual or organization which is featured at the top of every article.