Growth Points: Flights of fancy

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Because those of us who write in magazines are human beings and easily distracted with shiny things, there’s no lack of coverage for drones these days. Correction, there’s no lack of coverage for “unmanned aerial vehicles” or UAVs. 

Of course, we do want to call them UAVs and not drones. Too often the term “drone” has had “predator” in front of it or “strike” at the end of it. Neither of which sound particularly appealing to a suburban soccer mom. Just when ag professionals of all kinds have managed to gain more traction with the idea that we only use the inputs we need where we need them (think precision agriculture, 4Rs and environmental stewardship), along comes a term that puts us right down there with terror: drones.

So, for the moment, let’s all call them “unmanned aerial vehicles” or UAVs, though that is decidedly bland. And, maybe, a little too close to “unidentified flying object (UFO),” or perhaps a note you would see on sunglasses: “protects against UAV rays.” Yikes.

Since the term UAV is a little awkward, I suggest a few other possible more descriptive terms to describe “unmanned aerial vehicles” in agriculture. No, no, it’s okay. For you there’s no extra charge. Consider this list:

Aerial Plant Health Providers (APHP). Has a nice “Blue Cross” kind of feel to it, doesn’t it?  They could be painted to resemble ambulances maybe.

Aerial Crop Doctors (ACD). Illustrate this one with a cartoon drone with a stethoscope and one of those shiny mirror-on-the-head things. Plus, it has the benefit of a TLA (three-letter acronym).

Crop Pest Strike Force (CPSF). This one might carry a little more aggressive image. Maybe it could borrow from some of the ads for crop protection products we see where weeds and bugs are being tortured into submission.

Wings of Crop Care (WCC). Was going to suggest “Angels of Mercy,” but that’s a bit much, don’t you think? Wings of Crop Care suggests the angel part without coming out and blatantly aligning with divinity, though I would hasten to add that aligning with divinity is a good thing to do.

Aerial Crop Intelligence Device. I really liked this one to start with, then I realized the acronym was…uh, yeah: ACID. Maybe not a change for the better. Imagine the headline in your hometown: “Local Ag Business Serves Farmers with ACID.” 

It’s difficult to inject a new term into the language and expect it to become the common term. But, shouldn’t we try to get out ahead of this with something we can give a clearer, more positive message to? Which leads me to my personal favorite:

Aerial Crop Scouts (ACS). A bit more descriptive and friendly than UAV perhaps. Could this help those unfamiliar with the complexity of crop production feel better about agriculture’s use of this new technology?

If you’re considering using a UAV in your operation, you may want to recognize the branding opportunity it represents. Think about the language you will use to describe it in advance of putting it to use in the field. There’s certainly some publicity inherent in these new crafts. As example, I suggest you click on the video at: http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2014-03/17/beer-drones

Ice fishing, beer, bitter cold, beer and 12-pack fly-ins.  What could possibly go wrong?

Also, on a more serious note, if you have only a passing knowledge of UAVs and some of the possibilities they hold, I would encourage you to take a look at the recent CBS 60 Minutes coverage of the technology: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/drones-over-america-60-minutes/

Morley Safer provides a solid overview with visits to UAV developers and a UAV trade show. If you can stick with it, toward the end there’s an interview with Diane Feinstein, who shares her brief views on regulating UAVs.

Stay safe out there. May the wings of crop care be with you.


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