Agricultural interest and potential uses for unmanned aircrafts is growing, but a few steps remain before the technology can used on the farm according to Kansas State University agronomist Kevin Price.

Price shared his outlook on the technology at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 95th Annual Convention. Uses range from monitoring livestock in feedlots and on pastures, to tracking the spread of invasive plant species and collecting data on crop health, vigor and yields.

Drones technology a few steps away from farm applicationWith all of the potential uses, Price says 80 percent of all economic income from drone technology lies in agriculture.

He identified the need to concentrate all of the data a drone can collect into more focused information useful to farmers as the next necessary step.

“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.”

Farmers are already becoming more comfortable with the idea of using unmanned aircrafts on their property. Bill Wiebold, soybean specialist with University of Missouri Extension, explained some operating tips to a group of 100 farmers at the 90th annual Lawrence County Soils and Crops Conference last Thursday.

According to the Joplin Globe, Wiebold tells farmers to keep the drone within sight as they’re first learning to operate the aircraft, but said he uses a live stream video linked from the camera on the drone to his phone.

In December, the Federal Aviation Administration announced six states to host drone test sites to research uses and develop guidelines. Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia were selected by the FAA and operational guidelines are expected by the end of 2015.