While most headlines about unmanned aircrafts and farms have involved animal rights groups, universities and businesses are experimenting with ways drones can be used to a farmer’s advantage.
Universities are using unmanned aircrafts to monitor crops, taking detailed pictures of high-value commodities to see things unseen by the naked eye. On top of the improved details, farmers can use the aircrafts at a much cheaper price point than aircrafts requiring a pilot.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Oregon State University is one of several universities using drones for nonmilitary purposes on the farm. The technology is part of the growing interest in precision agriculture, using new tools like iPads and GPS to monitor crops. Information gathered by precision agriculture can show crop conditions and help a producer determine which fields need more water, additional fertilizer, or protection from insects.
Currently, only farms working with universities conducting the research can use the unmanned aircrafts, but the technology will be more available once the Federal Aviation Administration established guidelines, expected by September 2015.
R.S. Tahim, President and CEO of Advanced Defense Technologies Inc., announced marketing plans in April to utilize drone and UAV technology for precision agriculture applications.
"Drones have been used for military applications for a long time but in the very near future commercial applications in the agriculture industry are definitely possible," he said. “Once autonomous aircraft are used with a high rate of success in rural areas we expect a transition toward precision agriculture and the utilization of drone technology to reduce costs and maximize yields.”
The Wall Street Journal reports the unmanned aircrafts could generate more than 21,000 jobs in the agriculture industry in the first year.