By Heather Hetterick & Matt Reese
Just a few years ago, it would seem more like something out of a bad sci-fi film. But today, the possibility of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) floating over a farm taking pictures or video is a reality.
The unnerving whirring sound and ominous silhouette across the blue rural sky have triggered many opinions and possibilities for the agricultural community.
Rory Paul feels that UAVs, or drones, have many more positives than negatives. Paul is the owner of Volt Aerial Robotics in St. Louis and he sees tremendous potential for their use in agriculture.
“There are several applications we see developing. The simplest one is crop scouting. You could use a simple system like a helicopter or quad copter. The farmer can stand at the side of the field and get a bird’s eye view. There are huge advantages here because right now an agronomist can only see a small fraction of the field. If you see a problem, you get a picture of it and know exactly where it is,” he said. “The next application is mapping. You can use a fixed-wing UAV and you actually map the field creating an up-to- date digital map of the field. This allows the farmer to look at nutrient issues to develop an application plan and, technically, we could probably use precision spot spraying.”
In the distant future, he believes we could see other applications including pollination and population counts.