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Drones Are The Farmers Of The 21st Century

Agricultural groups experiment with unmanned vehicles to manage crops.

Leah Gonzalez
Leah Gonzalez on May 8, 2013. @leahgonz

More and more groups are using drones for non-military purposes. Even farmers and agricultural groups are looking to use unmanned vehicles to help manage their crops, bring down costs and increase yield. Together with universities in the US, they are currently studying the efficiency of using drones to do tasks that are usually done by manned airplanes or satellites.

The use of drones is the most recent development in precision agriculture, which uses technology like sensors, infrared and GPS to monitor fields.  Farmers can use the data gathered by the drones to monitor the health of crops and even determine specific areas that need more water or are suffering from pest infestation. Using unmanned vehicles can address time issues when it comes to crops and cut down costs.

Currently, only farmers who are working in a research study with a university can use these drones. The Federal Aviation Administration will be coming out with guidelines on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles by September 2015. According to a study by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), the use of drones can potentially create over thousands of new jobs.

Universities are already doing research with agricultural groups into how they can use unmanned vehicles to monitor crops, spray pesticides, and gather data on the health of crops.

Oregon State University plans to use drones to monitor its own potato crops and the crops of a commercial potato grower and is testing two unmanned vehicles. The University of California is testing drones to spray insecticides in targeted hard-to-reach areas in vineyards. Kansas State University is doing research on creating maps of nitrogen deficiencies in soil to help farmers target specific areas. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University are looking into using drones to detect microbes in the atmosphere that can harm plants by causing plant diseases.

Farming-crops

The Wall Street Journal

Images by Ken Giles/UC Davis, and Katarina 2353

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