Agriculture Americas

KDA hosts round table on use of unmanned aircraft systems in agriculture


The Kansas Department of Agriculture held the first in a series of discussions on the topic of unmanned aircraft systems featuring key players in its use, production and benefactors.

In partnership with the Kansas Department of Transportation, KDA is holding sessions about the emergency management and law enforcement, research and survey, small business interests and updates throughout Kansas.

The first session, held in Manhattan, addressed barriers, data gathering and education needed to fly a UAS.

One of the major barriers that the panel discussed was education. TJ Craig, director of agriculture at Pulse Aerospace, Inc., a Lawrence company producing UAS, talked about how an education system needs to be in place. Without such systems, Craig said he has reservations about what that could mean for the airspace.

“When the new regulations come out, that’s what I’m afraid of: a flood of people infesting the airspace who don’t know what they’re doing,” Craig said.

Aaron Horinek, a farmer from Colby, Kansas, agreed with Craig that younger generations are the main people implementing the technology. He also said that although UAS is available, not many farmers are using it.

“Very, very few farms; much less than I expected,” Horinek said. “I tend to think I farm in a very progressive part of the state, a lot of irrigation, a lot of big operations, and I know of only one other person who uses UAS.”

Along with the discussion of barriers and the need for education programs, the session talked about the potential for UAS outside of just taking pictures and monitoring crops.

Deon Van Der Merwe, associate professor of diagnostic medicine pathobiology, talked about the use of UAS for identifying health and activity of animals in the field. Van Der Merwe also spoke about the use of UAS for assessing pastures with the current crop assessing technology.

“A big talk in livestock agriculture right now is verification—being able to follow an animal from farm to fork,” Van Der Merwe said. “(UAS allows us) to follow an animal throughout its life; this technology can help facilitate that.”

Along with use in the livestock industry, UAS allows farmers to be environmentally conscious by watching their water usage.

Hazen Deeds, senior in agricultural economics, said using UAS technology allows him watch his water use, which helps with the governor’s water plan.

“I can put a UAS in the air, set a flight path and then use it with soil moisture probes, to become more smart about my water use using better precision irrigation,” Deeds said.

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