As seen in Illinois AgriNews on February 9th 2016
When is innovation just high-tech hoopla, and when does it have a real place on the farm? That’s the question many growers are pondering with the rise of the agricultural drone—a device that, while intriguing, leaves many wondering how they could really put one to productive use in an ag operation.
But, before dismissing the notion, growers ought to consider the data. In one study, for example, conducted by Informa Economics and Measure (Des Moines Register, July 21, 2015), researchers projected that, through the use of drones, corn, soybean and wheat farmers could gain $1.3 billion a year in both input savings and yield increases.
They calculated per-acre savings in the neighborhood of $11.50 for corn, $2.50 for wheat and $2.25 for beans, with yield increases of about 3.3% for wheat and 2.5% for corn and beans. For a machine with a one-time cost as low as $1,200 (and declining), that’s some impressive ROI potential.
Drone Value Is Virtually Limitless
A drone can go as far as a grower’s ingenuity can take it, and they’ll soon become a tool as valuable as any, especially for operations with more than a thousand acres.
- So far, early adopters have used drone technology to:
More quickly and thoroughly scout fields for insect and disease pressures and, then, subsequently make a spot-spray application.
- Monitor crop health throughout the season.
- Look for tile and drainage problems.
- Assess storm damage, not just of crops, but also atop barns, silos and other tall structures.
- Fly over irrigation pivot systems.
- Examine cattle health, via an infrared camera that can detect fever temperatures.
- Locate missing cattle.
- — and the possibilities go on.
Some have even used their drones to patrol their acres looking for hunters and other trespassers. It’s no wonder that experts predict 80% of the commercial drone market will eventually go to the agricultural industry.
Important Drone Regulations
As of this year, all drones are to be registered with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Drone owners and operators must have a copy of their license on their person or in the flight bag any time the device is in use out over the field.
Finally, drones must remain within the operator’s line of sight and are not to fly any higher than 400 feet—which is certainly high enough to fulfill any of the operations listed above, and more.