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Friday, January 3, 2014

Drones, UAV's, UAS's

My reading today was in the December 2013 CSA news.  Most of the issue is devoted to drones and their applicability in agriculture.  You may remember that I have a Parrott Drone that I wrote about in August.  As you can see the view and what it looks like.  In general I found that it would have limited applicability because of range, low altitude, and camera quality.  I did learn that it is much easier to fly than expected.  I also learned that I can gain a bit of altitude by flying it over the top of my truck.  Also, I found that I could ride along the edge of the field and my controller would stay in contact. 

My reading today excites me in many ways about the possibilities of drones also call Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), or Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS).  We know consultants who have used their systems to spot problems in fields and evaluate them for treatment.  The down side of this is that there is a chance that we are flying these things illegally.  I do not worry about my Parrott, because it is low altitude, but even it may be illegal to use commercially.  The FAA has recently announce test sites around the country to see how they want to regulate these things. Here is an article about people who have had legal problems with drones.  Even low altitude flying could invite a fine according to this article. Here is a current summary of regulations

That said, I think a farmer could and should do something similar to what I have done and try to test these things.  I know that consultants should be doing so as well, but read up on rules before jumping in and charging for services.  This blogger gives you some idea about possibilities.  My limited experience tells me that being able to program a route will free your drone from your controller and improve the range.  One that I have heard mentioned often is the Phantom 2

A drone with a thermal camera looks like it might be an addition that could make it more versatile in crop scouting.  My Parrott Drone sells for around $300.  The Phantom at base price is is under $1000.  Depending on the sophistication of the machine and the remote sensing you demand, price could easily get up to $100,000.  This kind of reminds me of the early days of computers.  There is a lot to consider.  There are many levels of affordability.  There are many levels of sophistication. 

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