Backers say drones will prove useful for farmers


DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Interest is growing in using unmanned drones to help monitor millions of acres of
with infrared cameras and other sensors can help identify insect
problems and watering issues early. They can also help assess crop
yields and locate missing cattle.
The Des Moines Register reports ( ) that supporters believe
using drones on farms makes sense because the operations are generally large and in rural areas.
Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International predicts that 80
percent of the commercial use of drones will eventually be in
Former Kansas State University professor Kevin Price
said drones will let farmers monitor their crops in ways they never
have, and he expects nearly every farm to start using the technology in
the next decade.
"It is endless right now, the applications in
agriculture," said Price, who left the university this month to join
RoboFlight, a Denver-based company that sells drones and analyzes the
data collected on corn, soybean and other field crops.
Brent Johnson spent $30,000 on a drone last year to study how the
topography of his 900-acre central Iowa farm affects yields.
He said using the drone helps him decide whether to replant an area or avoid it in the future.
"I’m always looking for an advantage, looking for how I can do things better," Johnson said.

Drones can also help farmers determine how much pesticide, herbicide or fertilizer to apply to specific
areas of their fields.
Drones range in cost from $2,000 for a basic model to roughly $160,000 for a military-style device.
farmers may try to operate their own drone, like Johnson has done, but
most are likely to hire companies with the expertise to operate the
Privacy and safety concerns have been raised about the
idea of businesses using drones. But agricultural use of the devices
could be more likely to gain acceptance.
Gilbert Landolt has
protested the way the U.S. military uses drones as part of the Des
Moines chapter of Veterans for Peace, but he’s not opposed to
agricultural use as long as it’s regulated properly.
"There are
good uses for drones, I’m not saying there’s not, but we need to get a
handle on it," Landolt said. "If they had some type of control over it
and could do it in a way on a farm that makes sense, I don’t have an
issue with that."
Information from: The Des Moines Register,
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