Considerations before flying a UAV
Unmanned aerial vehicles, also called UAVs or drones, provide a proactive resource for farmers to monitor crop conditions, improve soil health and collect data. Purdue Extension educators are performing UAV demonstrations to provide hands-on experience to farmers who are interested in how drones can benefit their operations. Purdue Extension started their UAV initiative in 2017 to provide educational opportunities and to enhance productivity through the use of technology.
In agriculture, UAVs feature cameras and sensors that use reflectance of vegetation to assist with decision making. By using this technology, the producer can gather information and make decisions about corrective actions for crop land, forestry, livestock and more.
“While drones provide an incredible innovation for farmers, there are some considerations to think about before taking flight,” commented Mark Carter, Purdue Extension Educator in Blackford County, Indiana. “Many drone users do not understand the dangers and risks in flying drones. Drones can fly up to 400 feet, sharing airspace with other aircraft. If a collision occurs, it can be dangerous.”
UAV pilots must have a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Certification. The Purdue Cooperative Extension service offers a UAV Technology Program in which students learn about camera settings, image quality, data management, sensors and artificial intelligence, flight plans and proper record keeping, free flight instructions, use of third party applications, legal requirements, and emergency preparation. Currently the program boasts a very high first time success rate for the Remote Pilot Knowledge Test. Most results from participants have been word of mouth. Formal follow-up survey collection will begin in March 2020.
“Drones have the ability to drastically change the landscape of agriculture. Margins get tighter every year. The more knowledge farmers have about what is going on in their fields, the more certain they can be when making decisions for their operation,” said Austin Pearson, Purdue’s Tipton County Extension Director.