The Buzz of the Future
Buzzing over a flat Kansas field, four different types of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) were demonstrated by Kansas State University personnel in early July. The four aircraft that were on display showed a small variety of UAS designs that are possible.
K-State is one university taking the lead on researching the use of UAS for the agriculture industry. The event was held to raise awareness about the potential these aircraft have for the agriculture industry.
UAS, sometimes known as unmanned aircraft vehicles (UAV), are gaining more media attention because of mainstream media’s use of the term “drone” to describe them.
“These craft are not drones,” explained Michael Toscano, president and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). “The term drone refers to a military craft and these UAS are not the type being used by the military.”
The use of UAS is strictly regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration. President Obama signed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act into law Feb. 14, 2012, which has provisions for the integration of UAS into the national airspace system by September 2015. The legislation has a number of benchmarks to be reached.
Currently, to fly a UAS, entities must receive a “Certificate of Authorization” (COA) from the FAA. These certificates are only being given to researchers, but other UAS are being sold and used under hobbyist rules. They must be fl own within line of sight of the operator, below 400 feet and only during the daytime.
AUVSI is involved with helping to integrate the use of UAS into the national airspace. The association even released a Code of Conduct to provide for the safe, nonintrusive use of UAS by its members who test, design and operate them. Toscano says it’s a common sense approach to operating a UAS, with an emphasis on safety, professionalism and respect.
Although UAS fly without a pilot, a ground crew is needed to set flight paths and collect the data as shown inside K-State’s UAS Mobile Ground Control Station, which allows staff to take UAS across the state to educate the industry on their use and to teach prospective students.
MULTIPLE USES OF UAS
Although UAS could eventually be used in a wide range of industries, they probably have the biggest benefit for agriculture. Using a still camera, near infrared camera, video camera or live-feed camera, small UAS have many potential uses.
Crop uses include detecting insect damage, mapping vegetation around fields, mapping spatial patterns of insect damage, detecting diseases, mapping the spread of a disease in a