The use of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) or drones has been talked about a lot in farming circles recently; however it is clear the use of agricultural drones is been held back in many countries. This is due to legislation, and in some case’s the lack of clear benefits to the farmers bottom line. In many countries (including the key US market) concerns over safety and privacy will need to be addressed before their use is allowed.
There is no doubt that UAVs are able to capture data, however data is of no use to the farmer without proper interpretation and analysis, and being able to come up with management action points. In this respect the use of UAVs in crop farming is ahead of livestock, with commercial platforms providing crop and soil mapping becoming more and more available, and as farmers gain experience in applying the technology the economic benefits will become clearer. On livestock farms UAVs could be used to do more than simply count animals, track movements or monitor pasture. Thermal imaging could potentially help in detecting animals on heat, or health issues.
The US authorities have announced that it will regulate for the use of commercial drones within the next 18 months to 2 years, and once this happens we are likely to see more and more farm UAVs developed for the key US market, which will perhaps lead to an even greater interest elsewhere.