So the Dakota Farm Show of Vermillion, S.D. may not be CES 2016 — but the agricultural showcase, which concluded Jan. 6, buzzed with just as much drone fever as farmers continue to marvel over ways UAV tech can make their lives and businesses better.
Case in point: Birdseye Farming, an Iowa-based drone firm that offers a number of UAV services to farmers including crop status analysis, precision-ag prescriptive data-gathering, tiling/drainage evaluations, topographical drainage estimate and pathogen tracking – all tasks that used to cost farmer thousands of addition dollars in order to hire airplane or helicopter data-analysis flights.
Birdseye Farming uses the PrecisionHawk Hawkeye Mk-111 along with proprietary cloud-based software, to set up automated precision-ag algorithms that can provide enhanced data to farms that can equate to higher yields in the field.
“What matters most to our customers is the ability to transform data into actionable information to support real-time business decisions,” Birdseye owner Micheal Wilson said. “We can add value to [customers’] imagery through sophisticated, automated algorithms.”
In fact, Wilson believes drones can make the world a better place. In his company’s Section 333 request (which was granted last year), Wilson stated UAV systems like Birdseye’s could “contribute to various social goods from environmental protection to improved crop yields.”
“[UAV systems] occupy a brand new space in a transformative industry by providing high quality and actionable information that will empower crop researchers and farmers to make better management decisions through software that identifies disease and insects, nutrient deficiencies and materials for increasing yields with fewer resources,” Wilson added.
It’s no secret that drones are expected to produce a bumper crop of new solutions for agri-business. The AUVSI Economic Report 2013 wrote that “. . . almost all respondents considered agriculture to be far and above the largest market.” Firms like San Francisco-based DroneDeploy utilize available commercial drones and couple them with the “powerful processing capabilities afforded by cloud-based computing to deliver aerial monitoring, inspection, and intelligence-gathering capabilities that previously have been cost prohibitive.”
Companies like PrecisionHawk are leading the way in providing hardware that can take the many software solutions on the market and make them literally fly. PrecisionHawk president Ernest Earon has stated that drones will do for agriculture “what cell phones did for telecommunication.” His own design, the Lancaster drone, deploys artificial intelligence that can create a flight path in accordance with detectable surroundings – collecting data, for example, for 120 hectares within 40 minutes. This data can be vital for farmers and can include factors such as chlorophyll levels or plants moisture allocation.
So the next time you hear of a farm or agriculture show in your town, remember – you may not be interested in fertilizer breakthroughs, new forms of tiller blades or tractor parts, but look to the indoor skies at these amazing showcases of farming know-how and you may just see the future of farming.