Old MacDonald Will Soon Have Drones

Once they are approved for commercial airspace, drones and the technology they carry stand to benefit farmers in a big way. Experts call it "precision agriculture."

What's the Latest Development?

Having received investment funds from, among others, Indiana University, Indiana-based Precision Hawk is in the process of testing a drone that could bring much more precise and useful data to farmers and others in the agriculture sector. The three-foot-long craft, which only requires a simple toss into the air, contains a wealth of sensors that collect many different kinds of data over the surveyed area. It's also smart enough to know when inclement weather conditions could affect its work, in which case it lands where it first took off.

What's the Big Idea?

With unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) expected to enter US commercial space in the next few years, Precision Hawk's drone could provide an easy-to-use and relatively affordable way for farmers to participate in what experts are calling "precision agriculture." For example, says company president Ernest Earon, "Today, depending on the crop, a farmer might have to decide it’s better to let a third of [the] crop wither because the cost of spraying [fertilizer on] the whole field is too high." With the drone, the farmer could simply target the areas that need the treatment, saving both money and time. Advances in sensor technology also allow the craft to help ranchers identify which animals in a herd are ill or stressed.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

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