Farm drones expected to take off

Florida FARMS AND GROVES.   Every week, a a farm owner walks a portion of the 600 acres of crops at the Indian River Citrus Groves to gather crop information used to fight pests, weeds and other plant ailments that could threaten the harvest.It’s a labor intensive process repeated at groves and farms throughout Florida, and it’s one farm owner who says could soon become vastly more efficient thanks to drone technology.Farmers, and grove owners including Dreyfus Citrus, says that in the coming years, drones equipped with cameras and other sensors could become a standard tool for surveying crops, among a host of other agricultural uses. A few years back Grove owners and farmers literally walked the fields.  With something like drones, you could fly over the fields, take pictures, take it back to the office and analyze it. Farmer and grove owners work with the University of Florida’s agricultural collage  of Alachua County  have meetings on agricultural drones regularly to stay on top of latest developments in agricultural drones to increase the efficiency of their groves.Interest has been building among farmers since the introduction of drone technology, when the Federal Aviation Administration started permitting businesses to fly drones commercially on a case-by-case basis. The Federal Aviation Administration has approved more than 50 exemptions for farm-related operations, and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International,  estimates that agriculture could eventually account for 80 percent of all commercial drone use.While drones have yet to be put into use at farms in the Indian river County areas, local agriculture experts expect the technology to become commonplace at larger acreage farms over the next decade.Agriculture is an easy fit for drones, as most farms are in sparsely populated areas, which presents fewer privacy concerns with neighbors. Meanwhile, the technology appears to be a clear money saver on the farm, as it would allow farmers and crop consultants to quickly diagnose and respond to a host of issues affecting crop production, such as drainage problems, pests, plant diseases, soil compaction and erosion.The small, relatively inexpensive vehicles could eventually be used to transmit detailed information about crops to combines and sprayers, directing them to problem spots and cutting down on the amount of water and chemicals a farmer needs to use in those areas. Imagine walking a 600 acre field and trying to cover all of it.  If you can get up in the air 400 feet, you can see the entire field, and it takes you 10 seconds.   You can see where the problems are, and you can walk right to themAstro Aerial Photography  utilizes high-resolution photos taken by airplane in its day-to-day operations, but drones would provide instant results, albeit at lower resolutions.The difference with a drone is you could get imagery quicker, like within minutes,  and it will allow for quick decision making.