UAS: Big Benefits for Farming Operations

What is the advantage to looking at your fields from above?

Published on: Jan 28, 2014

Unmanned Aerial Systems are becoming the next big thing in the technology game on American farms. While intriguing, the big question for most is: How will this help my bottom line?

So before talking about cost of a unit, learning to use one or which one best fits your needs, discussing the advantages comes first.

Consider a bird's eye view of your field. Admit it – at least once you have stood in the back of your pick-up truck, possibly on the cab, to get as high a view as possible over the top of your field to evaluate the stand, survey for weeds, possibly check to see if you can make out tile lines.

Brian Scott, farmer in Monticello, Ind., purchased his UAS late in 2013 and says he will be looking at video and stills of his crops this year, trying to spot any problems like weeds, pest, disease or water damage.

Unmanned Aerial Systems: While most everyone loves technology, spending money on new equipment that doesnt help your bottom line is usually not an option. (Photo courtesy of Chad Colby)
Unmanned Aerial Systems: While most everyone loves technology, spending money on new equipment that doesn't help your bottom line is usually not an option. (Photo courtesy of Chad Colby)

"The imagery from the altitude these systems will be flying will have much greater resolution than airplane or satellite data plus they can fly on the farmer's schedule and not have portions of fields blocked by cloud cover," Scott says.

This technology is becoming affordable enough that it can benefit both small and large farms.  For smaller farms, this is a great step forward into improving precision farming as a way of identifying specific areas of issue.  Larger farms can utilize the mapping, as well as monitoring crop plant health and weed pressure.

On most farms it is impossible to cover every acre on foot during the growing season to determine plant health, nitrogen deficiency, weed pressure and multiple other things that affect the yield and your bottom line.

This technology is changing weekly and just over the horizon are affordable infrared and thermal imaging cameras that will take this new ag tool even farther.

Editor's note: This is the second in a series of stories on UAS this week. Catch up using the links below:

What to Call Aerial Technology is an Issue
UAS: A New Tool for Ag