When someone says the word “drone” many of us tend to think of secret quiet aircraft used to gather information for the CIA or military. But there is a much different picture on the horizon.
It sounds like an odd pairing but agriculture is on the brink of becoming the first major American industry to embrace drone technology. Proponents say this could mean lower prices at the grocery store, more food and less work but the federal government isn’t so sure.
Farming has, is and always will be hard work. At Farm Haven in Union Kentucky, Stuart Ferguson knows that well. Every fall, he spends months walking his corn field crafting the most perfectly confusing corn maze.
This year, one little tool is making his job much easier.
“I’m going to right now look for a really good view of the corn maze and what pattern is in the corn maze,” says Ferguson as he straps on a pair of goggles.
“This is called First Person View. FPV,” he explains.
It’s called an unmanned aircraft vehicle, a UAV, or more commonly known as a drone. A camera is mounted on a small flying helicopter capturing pictures and video from all angles.
“I think I’ll fly over the pond,” said Ferguson who can see exactly where he needs to cut his trails without ever setting foot in the field.
“I use to do these photos of the corn maze with a balloon. I had a 13 foot blimp. This just seemed like a better option and one person can do the whole thing,” said Ferguson.
In less than ten minutes, he completed a task that usually takes hours to accomplish and he’s finding even more ways to maximize his time with the help of his drone.
“Most of the photos I have are for my own personal pleasure but in the middle of winter, if the cows haven’t been fed, I do take it up and I go fly out to the cows and see where they are, see if they need hay,” said Ferguson. “I’m not going to let this tool that I have and is so easy to use to not do something like that you know.”
He’s not alone.
Fox 19 traveled to Decatur Illinois where thousands of other farmers are seeing the benefits too. Farmers from 33 states and half a dozen different countries came to the first ever Precision Aerial AG Show, the official introduction of drones to commercial agriculture.
“Right now, it is in a transition from a toy to technology,” said Stu Ellis, the show manager. “It may take 3 or 4 hours to walk a field to make sure you don’t have any insects. You don’t have any weeds. You don’t have any fungal problems. Your fertility program is okay. One of these can do the same thing in 25-30 minutes.”
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