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Field tech: Flying machines on the farm

Drone vs. Cow

Guest post by Amy Petherick.

Farmers rely on the sky for a lot more than weather.Satellite imaging and crop dusters have been used for years but Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are new.

UAVs are a little bigger than the remote controlled helicopters most kids want for Christmas and people who use them for work, need to be certified first. So far, UAVs have mostly been used for research. Scientists are testing camera technology, to make sure plants that look pale to a UAV really are sick or under insect attack. They’ve learned to use thermal cameras to take the temperatures of all plants in the field. They can also use infrared or ultraviolet light (UV) sensors, to make sure plants are getting enough water and sunlight.

Some very tech savvy farmers are already using UAVs to scout over their fields and find plants that need a closer checkup. UAVs that can carry small tanks of water are in development. Farmers hope that one day, they can use these to spray only the plants which need fertilizer and pesticide help, at the exact time individual plants need it, without crushing other plants in the process.