Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), better known as drones, will make farming more efficient, lower operating costs, and reduce their environmental impact. That was the message from National Corn Growers Association Manager of Public Policy Clint Raine to a group of policymakers and reporters during a panel about the applications of UAS technology to the agricultural industry.
“I’m optimistic about the possibilities for UAS technology and what it could mean for farmers,” said Raine. “These devices will make farms more efficient and sustainable. Lowering the costs and environmental impact of farming is good not only for farmers, but also consumers.”
While unmanned aerial systems have many commercial applications, they are expected to have the greatest impact on the agriculture industry – by one estimate, adding more than $75 billion to the economy by 2025. UAS are regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration, and are currently banned for commercial use. NCGA and other agricultural organizations hope to see that changed.
“If this technology were available for commercial use, some immediate applications include livestock monitoring, crop scouting and field mapping. Being able to use UAS for any of these jobs would increase efficiency on farms and provide instant feedback to the farmer,” said Raine.
Drone technology could be used to detect early pest infestations, crop disease, poor soil health, irrigation levels, and overall crop health. Raine said the technology makes farmers much more efficient, allowing a producer to scout a field in 10-15 minutes in what used to take an hour.