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The future of unmanned aerial vehicles in agriculture could be revolutionary. But for now, the technology is still a work in progress.
'Good morning, I'm here to scout your crop.'
They stir the imagination and tickle the fancy of possibility, but for now, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in agriculture are still a work in progress.
They don’t zap insects, pull pigweeds or drive hungry deer from soybean fields – just yet. When a GPS signal shifts without warning, they might just land in a ditch full of water. Sometimes, they just fly off into the wild blue yonder.
But they can “see” fields from new perspectives, detect pest infestations more quickly, spot problems in equipment and get around the farm faster than you ever could in a pickup truck, leaving you more time to figure out, say, the new farm bill.
UAVs can also fly high enough to make pilots flying crop dusters and other aircraft a bit nervous. For now, the Federal Aviation Administration doesn’t quite know what to do about regulating them.
Nonetheless, the high-tech aspect of UAVs does stir the muse in farmers and researchers. And when farmers get excited about a technology that could save time, increase efficiency or help them better acquire the data they need to make smart crop management decisions, it usually finds its way onto the farm.
It doesn’t hurt when new technology brings a high-tech, glitzy look too, like the UAV demonstrated at the recent Northeast Research Station Pest Management and Crop Production Field Day, in St. Joseph, La. It looked like a big bionic spider and when operating, sounded like a swarm of angry bees.