From counting plants per square foot to measuring grain loss behind the combine, farmers spend a lot of time close to the ground.
Sometimes, however, the best farm decisions are aided by a perspective from higher up.
Drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in agriculture are making headlines, and for a couple of thousand dollars — and some remote control practice — any farmer can now get a view of his land that was once reserved for those with access to an airplane.
Brandon Gibb, who farms near Pincher Creek, purchased a quadcopter for around $1,500 this spring. His system includes a high-definition camera that can take video or still pictures and a GPS that guides the drone back to its starting position.
In mid-June, Gibb’s fields were being hit by a deluge of rain and once the rain stopped, he had plans for his drone.
“After the big rain I’ll spend the whole day flying around to see where there’s not enough run-off and what areas we can work on in the fall,” said Gibb.
As a farmer in an irrigation district, Gibb knows the value of bringing water to the land, but now he says he needs to concentrate on moving it away. Low spots that drown out or cannot be seeded in time cost money, so he is considering surface and tile drainage to help the water flow through rather than sit on his land.
Gibb discovered the benefits of a view from above while doing a university internship in Michigan.
“We’d rent a helicopter twice a year to get aerial imagery. It was expensive, but it paid for itself,” he said.
To Gibb, a bird’s-eye view is worth $1,000 per minute and a drone is cheaper than a biannual helicopter ride.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com