Last month, Brandon Basso, Senior Research and Development Engineer at 3DR, discussed the application of drones in agriculture at the annual Nebraska Crop Consultants Symposium in Las Vegas. Though that symposium name sounds extraordinarily specific, the crop consultants in attendance represented a huge swath of American heartland: over a million acres of cropland among them.
Similarly, the specific application of drones for them means wide-reaching consequences. This year, the symposium invited a number of outside speakers, Basso included, to speak about precision agriculture. Crop consultants spend huge chunks of money annually on chemicals and pesticides from big companies like BASF to ensure that crops aren’t lost to bugs and blight. Right now there’s no safe, efficient and reliable way of applying such chemicals surgically, so if anything there’s an excess blanketing of these crops, which obviously isn’t ideal for the crops or for bottom lines.
Basso discussed the potential of using drone technology to monitor and map farms daily. Aerial imagery and other sensors would give consultants and farmers high-resolution, real-time reports on crop health that they could then use to inform precision-agriculture decisions about which specific areas to treat on which days, and which to leave alone. In the end, Basso says, drones could hopefully lead to a dramatic reduction in the use of chemicals across our heartland.