BILLINGS, Mont. – Scouting crops for diseases or weeds in the pickup or hunting for a lost calf on a four-wheeler – or on foot – are physically tasking jobs, but that’s a part of the business of farming and ranching.
But as new ag technologies are developed, producers are hearing about how small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can be sent by remote control zipping across fields and through rangelands to do the hard work of scouting – and streaming it all on live video, as well as recording it all with a high resolution camera.
UAVs have been “all the buzz” at recent field days, and many crop and livestock producers seem to be excited about this new technology. Some are even using it.
Brothers Trevor and Taylor Miles, founders and owners of Landview Technologies, Inc., of Billings, Mont., have designed and created their own high-tech, top-of-the-line UAV that is currently being used by several producers to manage their crops in Montana.
“We saw this UAV technology as an opportunity to provide growers with another valuable tool,” Trevor said. “Producers are the ones who feed America and this will be a great asset for them.”
Trevor also owns Milestone Seed, Inc. an industry-leading seed business in Billings, while his younger brother, Taylor, served four years in the United States Marine Corps.
Taylor will take the main role in Landview Technologies and said he “is excited to bring my enthusiasm and work ethic to this somewhat new and growing industry.”
Trevor said producers using the UAV have found it is so precise with its infrared imagery that it is able to detect early signs of drought, diseases and insect pressure, whether irrigation units are operating properly and much more.
“With an infrared camera, which has a higher spectrum of colors than the human eye, attached to the UAV, growers have the advantage of seeing sicknesses and deficiencies in the crops before they can see it with their naked eye. That way, they are able to take action before there is too much damage or it is too late” Trevor explained.
Producers are able to manage their crops more efficiently day to day, with the Landview Technologies UAV and “get tasks completed in a more efficient, strategic manner,” Trevor added.
The uses of this technology are mind-boggling – there are so many places it will help depending on what type of farm or ranch a producer has.
For example, livestock producers can use the UAV, especially in rugged country, where finding a lost calf can take a lot of valuable time searching on horseback or ATV.
“In the northwest, there are a lot of places for calves or other livestock to hide or get lost in,” Trevor said, adding a cattle producer can set up his UAV unit and fly it over the terrain to search for lost animals.
In addition, the UAV can also detect a break in fencing, monitor water pipelines, provide accurate cattle counts, and check water and food supplies, among other uses.
The Landview UAV is custom-built out of aluminum and carbon fiber and uses top-of-the-line motors. The prototype was constructed by Trevor and Taylor earlier this year, and they worked with other engineers and educators to bring the UAV unit to the point where producers could easily use it.
“The UAV was built very rugged and dependable so it could be an efficient agricultural tool,” Taylor added.
The transmitter, which operates the UAV, is connected to a 7-inch high definition screen for a live stream view, and agronomic or rangeland information is stored on the camera card for later analysis by an agronomist, crop specialist or the producer himself.
Later, the producers can download it to their computer and stop and take a picture of a “hot spot” that they can closely examine, he said.
Then producers can go out and treat the crop or take the photo to their crop specialist to find out exactly what they are looking at and what should be done to treat it efficiently and effectively.
Trevor said it is difficult to inspect an entire field in a timely manner, whether on foot or vehicle.
“This technology not only saves time, but also shows the complete and accurate picture,” he said.
The Landview Technologies UAV is about 2.5 feet wide, and has six propellers on it, which allow for a very stable flight and accurate data feedback. The producer operates the UAV with a transmitter that can fly it manually or the flight can be inputted into the UAV with Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates.
The brothers recommend producers fly the UAV within the line of sight to be safe and not go higher than 400 feet. It can fly as high or as low as a producer requires but does not have to go too low to pick up crop pests as the camera is high resolution, Trevor noted.
In addition, while FAA rules will come into play in the future as more people and industries become involved with UAVs, as long as a producer flies on his property and is not interfering with airports or airplanes, he can use the UAV on his own farm or ranch for personal use. Trevor urged that producers need to follow current laws and regulations that are in place dependent in which state he or she resides.
“From row crops in irrigated valleys to dryland operations, producers who are utilizing UAVs for agriculture are already seeing a return on investment very quickly,” Trevor explained.
Some of these returns can be seen from producers spotting a crop disease on the downloaded photo or on the live video and heading out to do spot spraying or producers conducting targeted drought management, he said.
“Seeing crop diseases or other pests early can greatly increase yield at harvest,” Trevor said.
Landview Technologies, Inc., has the complete package for the ag producer – from the actual UAV to hands-on training with guided support, he added.
Several different universities nationwide are researching UAV technology. Other industries, including oil and gas industries to law enforcement, are also using the technology as a way to improve their operations.
“With the Landview UAV, it is easy to save time and profit by using less inputs, making better crop management decisions – thus maximizing profits on yield,” Trevor said. And, in addition to being a real tool, the UAV is a lot of fun to operate, he added.
“Whenever the Landview Technologies UAVs are in flight, both producers and onlookers alike tend to gather,” Trevor said.
For more information on the Landview Technologies UAV system, log on tohttp://www.landviewtechnologies.com/ or contact Taylor at 208-867-6941.