Drones revolutionize the way farmers collect data

Over the past two decades, the use of GPS and data sensors has been a standard phenomenon in farming — known as precision agriculture, and the information, chiefly gathered by tractors during planting and harvesting, were studied by farmers to make planting decisions for the next season. But recently, a small number of farmers and farm-equipment dealers turned their attention into unmanned aerial devices, known as UAVs or drones, to get pictures and other data above fields. With drones, they were able to get images quickly and cheaply while crops grow and if a problem was found, the farmers could take action immediately. Realising the potenital of drones, an industry is emerging to promote the concept.
“It’s very new,” said Jerry Johnson, chief executive of Farm Intelligence2, a developer of field-analysis software and two UAVs for farm use. “There’s a lot of educating that is going on. Most people have basic questions like ‘How long does it fly?’ while some ask very sophisticated questions about the data.”
And while the term “drones” conjures up images of multimillion-dollar military vehicles or gangly devices carrying packages from Amazon, the machines and related systems being developed for farmers are smaller, sleeker and generally simpler to use.
“Even though we’re using the same term, drone, it really is quite different,” says Brendan Schulman, a New York lawyer who has become a specialist on the evolving regulation of drones.

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