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Drone helps Iowa City farmers with precision agriculture


            As any farmer or agronomist can tell you, time is always the crucial matter when we are talking about fertilizing or fungicide and micronutrient applications. Literally any input decision on the farm is extremely time sensitive. And that is exactly where can be drones significantly useful. Indeed, it´s fantastic how quickly decisions can be made when you are permanently and precisely informed about the crop and field situation thanks to UAV technology. Today I´d like to present you one another great example of UAV deployment in precision agriculture. Kyle Miller from Iowa City learned the art of reading crop leaves to detect issues such as nutrient deficiencies and infestations while growing up on his family’s farm. However his father and granfather are farmers, Kyle is taking a new approach to crop monitoring and scouting. He is flying a drone above family´s farm in order to monitor crop situations, using even infrared cameras.

           Miller is a student at Dordt College and a part of his senior project was testing the radio-controlled vehicle´s ability in precision agriculture. He also programmed his UAV with laptop and set a system of waypoints for autonomous flight. The drone is a pretty lightweight fixed-wing type made from foam and carbon fiber rods – an ideal choice for progressive agriculturalists. Besides landing is the whole flight fully autonomous, controlled only by laptop via a radio signal. The drone is equipped with couple of cameras for taking infrared images from the fields. The photos are being taken every two seconds and are geotagged for precisely monitoring the farm area below. After several passes over the field knows the farmer precisely if there is any problem, disease or neglecting with the crops. These infrared images can be used as an important tool for farmers which would like to know e. g. which areas may be nitrogen deficient down to the individual crop. With precision agriculture with UAV deployment may be done suitable intervention on the field with surgical precision.

        Miller said that the drones are going to help us better understand what corn and soybean plants are going through, the different kinds of stresses. As already many farmers before him he discovered the tremendous potential of UAV deployment in precision agriculture. In other hand, there is still a lot to do, especially if we look on the legislative side of UAV applications for civil purposes. For every country has a differend attitude to civil drones usage, the current legislation is still not stabilized. According to the FAA is UAV deployment forbidden for comercial purposes. That´s actually means that Miller couldn´t offer his services and art of crop scouting to another farmers. We can only hope that FAA regulations will be enacted next year and open the door to commercial possibilities. If the UAV applications for precision agriculture get a green light, it will become even more important tool in worldwide crop management.