Farming with Drones

Updated: 09/03/2014 11:32 PM
Created: 09/03/2014 11:08 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 News) -- With the weather cooling down, farmers everywhere are getting closer to harvest season.

But already looking ahead to future harvests, many farmers are hoping new technology will help bring better yields, with some looking to take drones from the battle field to the corn field.

When it comes to drones and farming, experts say there's a lot that can be done.

"Some nutrient deficiencies, traffic problems, compaction problems, nitrogen deficiency would be big...there's all kinds of things you could find with them,” said Norb Boyle, a territory manager with Servi-Tech.

On Wednesday, a group of farmers and others working in the agricultural industry met at the Iowa State University research farm in Nashua, IA, to learn more about how unmanned aerial vehicles could help them survey fields and get better results.

"In a corn field, you walk into the edge of the field and you really don't know what's 100 feet beside you or in front of you unless you walk to those spots,” Boyle said.

"It's just a lot more involved to get an actual airplane to go up and do this,” said Tom Smidt, who was leading the drone demonstration and is president of Smidt Crop Management. “If I got a problem, if I have [the drone] with me, in probably ten minutes I can be up, take pictures, and be done."

Currently, the FAA does not allow drones for commercial use, but those in the industry said they may soon become a staple for farmers everywhere.

"As you get down the road, I think in Japan they're actually doing some spraying with these,” Smidt said. “My guess is, if they get these perfected there will be lots of other uses."

"I think it's just another tool that we can use to help farmers be more productive, more profitable in the future," Boyle said.