The Buzz of the Future
fi eld, identifying and mapping weeds, spot spraying of herbicides, crop nutrient condition assessment, assessing planting issues, assessing drought or overwatering, monitoring irrigation systems, assisting with a farmer’s precision ag applications, and helping to develop methods to characterize plant phenotypes.
For livestock operations, UAS can help monitor stock ponds for health risks like blue green algae blooms and help count livestock when needed or to locate them during calving season.
For pastures and rangelands, UAS can be used to estimate a pasture’s biomass, assess grazing impacts, map invasive species, and assess disease and insect infestations on the land.
UNIVERSITY INTEREST INCREASING
Universities across the country are investigating UAS design and utility of uses. University of Florida researchers have demonstrated that low-altitude, high resolution aerial imaging using small UAS can detect citrus disease more accurately than other aerial imaging techniques. UAI International of Grand Forks, UA Vision of Dayton, Ohio, and the University of Dayton-led Institute for the Development and Commercialization of Advanced Sensor Technology (IDCAST) are working to develop and market UAS-based solutions for agricultural applications to identify early signs of crop problems.
Researchers at Kansas State University are using UAS to create precise maps of nitrogen deficiencies that could provide better data than random soil testing.
At Virginia Tech, a research team is using UAS to detect microbes in the atmosphere that may cause plant diseases, with the goal of creating an early warning system for potential epidemics.
Oregon State University plans to use UAS to analyze potato fields to help farmers more efficiently use water, fertilizer and pesticides to bolster yields and cut costs.
UAS ADD MAN POWER
In addition to university interest, ag professionals recognize that many in the industry are rapidly reaching retirement age. As a result, agriculture is going to need faster, better ways to check on crops, a safer way to do hazardous jobs and information to increase yields while lowering costs.
One key business area of agriculture that UAS are expected to flourish is with crop consulting.
“The easiest fit for UAS to be used is with the crop consultant,” said Gary Pierznski, Ph.D., head of K-State’s department of agronomy and professor of soil and environmental chemistry. “It will be so much easier for the crop consultant to use a UAS to gather data quickly about a field. He will no longer have to spend as much time scouting a field. He’ll simply gather data by flying the UAS over the crop. He can analyze the data on his computer back at the office, thereby spending less time in a hot field and speeding up the number of fields he can visit in a day.”