The topic of Tuesday’s seminar at the Indiana/Illinois Farm Show was drones and big data. Those who attended the seminar learned that the application of drones for agriculture is about ready to take off. Jim Love, a Boone county farmer and consultant to Beck’s Hybrids, has more experience using UAVs or drones in agricultural operations than most people. He brought his UAVs and experience to the farm show on Tuesday. He said all that is holding back the adoption of this new technology is the lack of rules on their use by the FAA, “Once we get some ground rules from the FAA, I think you will see this technology available in the marketplace almost immediately.” He told the seminar that agricultural applications of UAV technology are being using in Canada and Europe today because it is legal there. He predicts that the new FAA regulations will not likely be in place until sometime in 2016.
There were several exhibitors selling UAVs at the farm show, but Love urged farmers to take it slow when getting into drones. “There are units from $1200 to $25,000, so growers need to be careful. I think they should get in at the low end and see if this is something that might work in their operations.”
The main purpose of using drones in farming operations is to collect data. Love said making sense of that data can be a daunting task; and, thus, he feels there will soon be many companies selling data analysis, “I think we will see, in the near future, companies that will offer growers services that will analyze the data collected by the UAV’s.” Love added that most farmers he knows will be more comfortable flying the UAVs than spending the time at the computer dealing with the data.
Love says that not only will data be collected by UAVs, but, in the near future, also by on-the-ground robots that will walk fields and collect data. “There will be on-the-ground robots that will walk your fields and give you stand counts and yields estimates.” Love said the only limitation to this technology is imagination.