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Natalie Schuler
ENGL 10600
Brittany Biesiada
03/26/2015
Drones in Todays Agriculture
Normally when hearing the word drone, many people think of military drones. That
perspective is quickly changing. Drones are becoming more and more prevalent in agriculture
because there are so many benefits. Drones should be used in agriculture because they play into
precision agriculture, are more cost efficient and beneficial, and are creating more jobs around
the world.
Drones have been commonly known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) that are used
for surveillance and targeting enemies in the military (Sharma 1). They have also been used for
dropping bombs, monitoring borders, and taking the place of soldiers (Dillard n.p.). Japan is
doing something different; they are using drones for agricultural purposes.
Drones come with limitations, just like everything else. Drones have become more
popular with people, known as hobbyists. The Federal Aviation Administration, also known as
FAA, knows that small drones like this exist and have issued regulations pertaining to these
drones. In a recent Farm Journal article, John Dillard explains that, [The] FAA allows model
plane hobbyists to operate remote-controlled airplanes and helicopters, so long as their use is
strictly recreational, (1). The United States currently has limitations on commercial use of
drones. If you are flying the drone for profit and flying it over someone elses land, you have
to have permission to be there and an FAA license (Roberson n.p.). This is just one example of
the limitations on drones.
Drones are part of the precision agriculture trend, meaning they can revolutionize
agriculture tremendously. Precision agriculture uses technology to reduce costs and maximize

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yields. Drones fit perfectly in precision agriculture. Agriculture UAVs can be used for field trials
and research, help determine biomass, crop growth, and quality, precision farming, and the
general monitoring of crops (Grenzdrffer 1).
Drones are more beneficial and cost efficient than current practices. Currently for farmers
to scout their crops they either pay big bucks for an airplane to fly over their fields or walk them
themselves. This is where drones should and will come into place. Drones can eliminate both of
these. Agriculture based drones are fitted with high-tech cameras, making it more beneficial
[These cameras] enable farmers to get a birds eye-view of their crop by flying at low altitudes.
Using Infra-red imaging, drones can also detect which plants are sick and which ones are
healthy (Sharma 2-3). It is less timely to fly over your fields with a drone than to walk them. It
is also more cost effective than to fly over with an airplane. The CEO and cofounder of 3D
Robotics and founder of DIY Drones, Chris Anderson, explains Its also much cheaper than
crop imagine with a manned aircraft, which an run $1,000 an hour. Farmers can buy the drones
outright for less than $1,000 each (Anderson 1-2). This is a huge benefit. Instead of paying
thousands of dollars each year, you pay a flat fee for a drone and camera. Dan Moehn, vice
president of Landmark Services Cooperatives agronomy division, says Whenever you see a
field from a different perspective, youre able to pick up new information (Potter n.p.). Flying
over fields with drones is not only cheaper, but much more beneficial.
Agriculture drones can help the environment and save even more money by eliminating
and changing current practices. Farmers typically spray pesticides over their crops to prevent
fungal infections. Currently they spray them uniformly over the entire field. Brandon Basso, lead
researcher at 3D Robotics says, It is not environmentally great or financially great (n.p).
According to him, the use of drones can mitigate some of these drawbacks (n.p.). For example,

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farmers can choose to not spray pesticides based on an aerial survey of their crop using drones
(n.p.). Alternately, they can selectively spray pesticides only on plants that need attention, thus
minimizing environmental damage and saving money (Sharma n.p.). Applying pesticides only
where needed would save farmers an abundance of money, but also be better on the
environment.
Drones provide a stronger, more unique view and can aid in monitoring crops. Chris
Anderson better explains the details that drones can provide. Seeing crops from an aerial view
can reveal patterns such as irrigation, soil variation, and pest and fungal infestations. The
cameras on these drones can take multiple forms of images. They can capture infrared images as
well as the visual spectrum. These images can then later be combined to see things that the visual
eye could not see. Drones can survey crops hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly. This is beneficial
to see the changes in the crop; showing troubled spots but also healthy spots (Anderson 2). With
all the different views and angles drones can provide, a lot of the guess work is eliminated for
farmers.
The growing of agriculture drones has created and will continue to create many jobs.
According to a study by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, drones in
the U.S. can produce approximately 100,000 new jobs and increase the economic activity by $82
billion, just between 2015 and 2025 (Sharma 1). These jobs would be added in drone production,
sales, and consultants. New jobs help the economy, which is always appreciated.
The companies manufacturing these drones are working with farmers to better understand
their needs. They want the drones to work with and fit in the equipment; they arent trying to
entirely replace equipment. Doing this makes it easier and encourages farmers to use drones.
Although it takes out some of the new mechanics of drones, they still require technical

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knowledge. This is why companies such as 3D Robotics are selling the drones to crop analysts,
who then recommend them to farmers (Sharma 2,3).
Some of the setbacks to the use of drones in agriculture include privacy concerns and
airspace. Chris Anderson explains, 120 meters is the regulatory ceiling in the United States for
unmanned aircraft operating without special clearance from the Federal Aviation
Administration (Anderson 1). It is said that the law is not very clear on where the landowners
airspace ends and the public airspace begins. Some say that the property owners airspace is as
tall as the land is wide. Others argue that rural areas dont face the same safety and privacy
concerns as urban areas. Were all out in rural areas and were going to be flying over flat
terrain without a lot of man-made obstacles (Senger 2). Getting the privacy laws established
will clear up this issue.
The U.S. Senate is working to establish laws on drones for privacy reasons. The United
States Senate held their first session on March 20, 2013 on the future of drones in America. In
the opening statement, Patrick J. Leahy, a U.S. Senator from Vermont states, Just in the last
decade, technological advancements have revolutionized aviation to make this technology
cheaper and more readily available. As a result, may law enforcement agencies, private
companies, and individuals have expressed interest in operating drones in our national airspace
(1). The government knows that these small drones are out there and they are actively meeting
and discussing how to establish boundaries on these small UAVs.
As the world keeps hearing, We expect 9.6 billion people to call Earth home by 2050.
All of them need to be fed. Farming is an input-output problem. If we can reduce the inputs
water and pesticidesand maintain the same output, we will be overcoming a central challenge
(Anderson 2). That quote really speaks. If we know that our ways now will not provide and be

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efficient enough for us in the future, and these drones will help that, why are we taking so long to
implement drones in agriculture? There are far more positives that outweigh the negatives. We
should work to overcome the setbacks, and use drones to advance agriculture.

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Works Cited
Anderson, Chris. Agricultural Drones. Technology Review 117.3 (2014): 58-60. Military &
Government Collection. Web. 6 Mar. 2015.
Dillard, John. Drones and the law. Farm Journal 15 Feb. 2014: 22. Web. 4 Mar. 2015.
Grenzdrffer, G.J., A. Engel, and B. Teichert. The Photogrammetric Potential of Low-Cost
UACs in Forestry and Agriculture. The International Archives of the Photogrammetry,
Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences. 37.B1 (2008): 1207-1214. Web. 2
Mar. 2015.
Potter, Ben. Extra eyes for farmers: regional cooperative uses drones for scouting. Implement
& Tractor 1 Sept. 2013: 31. Web. 4 Mar. 2015.
Roberson, Roy. Drones may help detect crop problems at early stage. Southeast Farm Press 21
Oct. 2013. Global Reference on the Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources. Web.
6 Mar. 2015.
Senger, Emily. Farming on the fly: military drones are finding new users: keeping track of
cattle and, perhaps one day, delivering the mail. Macleans 14 Jan. 2013: 49. Biography
in Context. Web. 6 Mar. 2015.
Sharma, Rakesh. Growing the Use of Drones in Agriculture. Forbes. 26 Nov. 2013. Web. 3
Mar. 2015.
The Future of Drones in America: Law Enforcement and Privacy Considerations. U.S.
Government Printing Office: Washington, 2013. Print.