The day is coming when drones are going to be as important to South Dakota farmers as field computers, GPS controls and auto steering.
It’s going to be a while yet. The Federal Aviation Administration is still taking public comments on its proposed rules for commercial unmanned aircraft before signing off on anything.
But farmers can definitely see the value in them, said David Clay, a soil sciences professor at South Dakota State University.
And the danger in them, too, he added.
“As I have visited with some of our farmers, I know they are very concerned” about privacy issues, Clay told me. “They’re concerned that people will be coming by and looking at their fields with their drones, looking at their stuff. They don’t want that. They feel like they could be infringed upon, that their privacy could be infringed upon.”
Clay is going to cover the topic during SDSU Extension’s two-day Western Corn Belt Precision Farming Conference & Expo Tuesday and Wednesday at the Convention Center. Certainly, he will discuss how drones can help crop yield as well.
For example, say a soybean pest like aphids is doing damage in a field. A drone would be a fairly inexpensive way to get aerial photos of where the pests are raising havoc, Clay said.
“That way, you could identify the boundaries that need to be treated,” he said. “As opposed to spraying the whole 160 acres, the drone shows me that maybe I have 15 or 20 acres that have a high aphid population. Then I target my treatment to those areas that have a problem.”
That certainly beats a farmer having to trudge through fields that are waist-high with crops and trying to identify where the boundaries begin and end, he said.
It’s an interesting topic considering our story Sunday on agriculture’s impact on Sioux Falls. One of the companies that has looked at working with drone technology is Raven Industries, Clay said.
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