There’s more than meets the eye as UAVs begin to fly the friendly skies of agriculture


Earnest Earon says farmers could probably get just as good a look at their crops with a 300-foot stepladder. But it would be very difficult to carry the ladder around in a pickup truck. Instead, farmers are turning more and more to unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs to help get a broader view of their fields. Earon discussed how UAVs are helping farmers collect and manage the data they need to make good cropping decisions in a presentation at the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers.

“We’re really focused on agriculture, and the amount of uptake in the agricultural space has been astounding,” he said. “It is very clearly an industry that is data hungry, and it’s a very sophisticated industry. They know what they need so we’ve had incredible uptake and incredible demand from the agricultural community.”

Earon says a lot of different organizations are flying a lot of different platforms “with more or less success.” Too often, he says, the focus is on the platform rather than on the information that is being collected.

“The platform is the means, not the end,” he notes. “It’s not about the pictures; it’s not even really about the data. It’s about the information.”

Ideally, farmers need to be able to tell the UAV what they need, throw it up and have the UAV figure out how to go about gathering the information. The PrecisionHawk Labs system is designed so that once collected the data is fed directly into its cloud offering. “So it comes directly up to our servers and can be processed there,” he says.

“The analytical tools can be applied there as well, but the idea is you’re collecting all this information to be able to get information on what is happening in the field for the grower.”

The key is ease of use. “Farmers really don’t have time to or the resources to train someone to be a pilot,” says Earon, noting that users can operate the aircraft with little or no training; the aircraft is hand-launched; and it features automatic takeoff, survey determination and flying, and landing

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To see Dr. Earon’s presentation, see