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Looking Ahead: Drone Technology

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles could be coming soon to a field near you.

Precision agriculture, the farm-management practice that more accurately controls and manages inputs, relies heavily on technology to analyze detailed site-specific information. In the near future, that technology could take a radical step forward.

The use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or drones, may soon play a major part in precision agriculture. The demand for ever-more precise crop data is continuing to increase rapidly, making the introduction of drones into the agriculture industry eagerly anticipated.

A New View

Experts in the field expect that the use of drone technology in agriculture will revolutionize the industry.

Currently, to obtain an aerial view of a grower's land, a grower has to hire an airplane to take overhead pictures of their fields, a practice that they might not be able to take advantage of too often. With drones, a grower has the ability to get an aerial view of their crops whenever they need it and as often as they like.

Dave Swain, Manager of Precision Ag Technologies at Southern States, says that having an aerial view of fields helps farmers get a different, and advantageous, perspective. "With UAV's, you will be able to see better if your crop is under stress. You can find problems that you might not have caught on foot."

Future is Unclear

However, many growers who want to hire a UAV service cannot do so currently. The FAA, after putting out guidelines that were challenged and overturned this year, have not yet put out revised guidelines on the use of agricultural drones. With no solid laws to regulate the usage, companies are hesitant to jump into the UAV-services market.

"Most companies are only experimenting with the idea of drones and looking at how they could fit them into their businesses until the new laws are in place," reports Swain.

The FAA has until September of 2015 to come up with revised laws. The eagerness of companies to use UAV's is quite justified. Experts estimate that the use of UAV's could amount to an $82 billion market, with agriculture making up one of the biggest chunks.

Southern States' Services

Southern States continues to keep a watchful eye on all UAV legislation and news. "We are doing our due diligence of what's expected with regards to UAV's before we offer that service to our customers," says Swain. "We want to be ready."

While UAV services are not yet available from Southern States, the company does offer an imagery program that is done by an airplane for an aerial view of your farm. For more information about this service, please contact your local Southern States Representative.

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