Take That, Red Baron

Jim Ruen

In Virginia, drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are being used to collect fusarium spores and other microbes just above field levels. In California, they have been used to evaluate water stress, which translates into labor, water and energy savings. Everywhere in between, crop consultants, growers and others are waiting to see how they will change agriculture.

Even though UAV use in the U.S. is still restricted to researchers and government agencies, with some allowance for individual property owners, change is in the air. Drones will soon be commonplace in American agriculture. All that is stopping it are FAA restrictions on commercial operation in the U.S. New rules are expected later this year that may allow operation of small systems at low altitudes for agricultural use.

“The first group to be targeted will be police and emergency responders,” said Rory Paul, Volt Aerial Robotics. “With 50,000 police departments, they are the Holy Grail for UAV companies. Once that is accomplished, we will see companies targeting agriculture.”