Top 5: Reasons to Adopt UAS Technology

Published online: Apr 06, 2017 Top Five Tyrell Marchant, Editor
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This article appears in the December 2016 issue of Potato Grower.

Every potato grower in the world will tell you there’s no way to be successful in this business without boots on the ground, out in the field. While that’s certainly true, in this age of precision technology and mass data consumption, unmanned aerial systems—drones—seem to be the next unstoppable wave in production agriculture. A bird’s-eye view is an efficient (and, let’s be honest, fun) way to augment a grower’s boots-on-the-ground know-how, and it’s a method that continues to grow ever more affordable.

 

  1. Affordability

While it’s true that a few years back, buying and licensing a drone was a costly endeavor, today it’s a far less onerous financial investment. Most ag-based systems are now in the $1,000 range, and licensing for low-altitude (up to 120 meters) aircraft is now as simple as taking a written test from the FAA.

 

  1. Whole-field view

This is an obvious one. Getting a bird’s-eye view of a field affords growers a quick look at trends in his field—water shortages, plant numbers, visible disease symptoms, etc.—that even the best ground scouting would be hard-pressed to provide.

 

  1. High-tech imagery

On top of being able to stitch together an image of an entire field in the daylight, drones can be equipped with cameras that employ near-infrared, red-edge, mulitspectral and thermal imaging capabilities. These can provide a look into such areas as soil properties and moisture content, crop health or stress, and erosion control. These can even be utilized at night, when winds are generally slower and provide fewer problems for flight.

  

  1. Chemical Application

Beginning to make their way into the market are larger drones, like Yamaha’s RMAX, with the capability of carrying several pounds of chemical into a field to spot-spray when a problem is detected.

 

  1. Time savings

Sure, UAS use means somebody on the farm has to be trained to fly the thing. But manufacturers are getting smarter about simplifying their products, and once you’ve got it figured out, these babies have the potential to feed growers with loads of information with a much smaller time commitment than ground scouting.