How Aerial Images Can Be Used in Agriculture

drone uses in agriculture

The future of agriculture may be provided by drones. This is because the Federal Aviation Administration has released a new policy regarding drone use on private or public lands. This is one of the first such policies of its kind, and it calls for guidelines to govern the use of drones in the nation’s airways. The policy requires that operators of such aerial vehicles must not fly their drones beyond the line of sight of the operators. It also requires that such operators maintain visual contact with the drones at all times.

An Overview

What does this mean for the private-drone industry? In short, it means more income and job opportunities for those in the agricultural sector, specifically for those who are specialized in aerial photography and mapping. These specialized experts rely heavily on high altitude imaging and remote sensing to map streams, lakes, crops, and so on. By taking advantage of existing drones in the marketplace, an aerialist can expand their range and ability to survey remote locations.

In fact, mapping an entire field can take place using an aerial vehicle. For instance, say there is a dairy in Texas. By using a drone equipped with a thermal imaging camera, the owner of the dairy can map the entire field in three dimensional space and determine what crops need to be harvested, how much should be moved and how often. This information is then fed into a computer which uses the mapped data to make farming decisions. Basically, an aerialist can become a mapping expert in the dairy industry by studying the various crops and their growth patterns and then using that information to make educated guesses as to when different sections of the field might need to be worked.

Aerial Images For Agriculture Facts

As stated earlier, the use of drones for mapping actually falls under agricultural applications, but that is only one example. Other examples include the ability of the aerial vehicles to measure plant growth using the greenhouse gas sensors included on many of the models. This makes for easier crop marketing research as researchers can remotely map a large field and then determine the best times to harvest plants. This saves the farmer time as well as money spent on fuel to travel to the next lab.

While the initial cost may make purchasing a personal small plot of land seem more than reasonable, it is important to keep in mind that the cost of acquiring property and then setting up the infrastructure required can run well into thousands of dollars. By using a drone to map the area prior to planting seeds, and then allowing the system to do its work while the crops are growing, you are saving both money and time. In fact, the crop monitoring is so accurate that sometimes the difference between what the farmer thought they were doing and actual results is less than ten percent. This precision is important when dealing with the ever present problem of crop disease.

Agriculture experts say the key to getting the most from these programs is to be sure that the operators stay in contact. When farmers see other farmers taking advantage of the benefits of drones, many become leery. However, Tom Otton, who farms in southwest Pennsylvania, says he has seen the benefit first hand. He says, “The more we’ve done the aerial shots over the past couple of years the more we’ve seen how easy it is for a smaller farmer like ourselves to handle the challenges and hurdles that come with the program.”

The program is especially useful for smaller farmers, as it makes the job of crop analysis and management much easier, especially for those without access to a lot of land or the specialized tools needed to conduct such an investigation. With the increase in availability of non-traditional tools and programs for measuring plant growth, it is important for farmers to explore all available techniques. As it stands, many farmers still rely on hand-held devices and traditional field sites. Drone technology may prove to be the tipping point for them, giving way to increased crop production and a raise in income.

Bottom Line

One concern that some people have, especially in light of the possible invasion of the privacy of drone pilots, is whether or not aerial surveillance will be used above sensitive food crops. There are already laws in place that protect the rights of private property owners to protect their crops from aerial damage. However, the use of aerial drones for crop surveys may be considered both legitimate and necessary. Some sources believe that the federal government will eventually pass a law allowing for the aerial recording and drone photography of personal property. Regardless, it is a definite trend that look to be here to stay, and one that may bode well for the future of aerial photography.

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