The field of agriculture is always changing. These changes can vary from the use of GPS to variable planting rates. With all of these changes, comes a learning curve for new farmers. One big change that is occurring in the world of agriculture is the use of UAVs.
UAVs, or unmanned aerial vehicles, are being used by several different types of people in present times. Real-estate agents getting aerial footage of property that is for sale, farmers checking pastures during calving season, the opportunities seem endless. To find out more about the use of UAVs for people in our area, I turned to a UAV dealer, Devon Armstrong.
Devon Armstrong is a Western Illinois Graduate who started selling UAVs in 2015 for a company called Crop Copter. He discovered his passion for UAVs when he first saw the opportunities they had to offer while attending the farm progress show. I asked Devon a
few questions regarding the technology that Crop Copter has to offer. Devon stated, “Crop Copter offers EZ health software that allows users to fly over a field with a near infrared sensor and take pictures of growing crops. These images are stored onto a thumb drive and when the flight mission for the field of interest is complete the UAV returns to the original take off location. The operator then is able to take the thumb drive and download all of its data into the EZ Health program which then stitches all of the images together to produce one mosaic of the field. The field will appear in different colors based on how much light is being reflected by the growing crop. The healthier the crop is, the more NIR light that will be reflected and be picked up by the sensor. There will be a legend that the producer can then manipulate to get a real picture of problem areas within a field.” The picture above explains the amount of light that is reflected off of a plant. A dead leaf will have little light reflection where as a healthy leaf has high amounts of green and near infrared light. With this information, users can then assess whether or not they need to apply more nitrogen to their growing corn crop.
Crop Copter UAVs have also been picked up by crop insurance agencies when assessing crop damage in a field. “Crop insurance agencies are using the NDVI technology to determine how much crop damage there is after a damaging weather event. The NDVI sensors detect the damaged crop leaves by comparing those leaves to a healthy plant that was not affected,” stated Devon. He then goes on to say that, “those same pictures can then be used by a farmer to determine whether or not he or she needs to spray a pesticide to try and preserve what remaining crop there might be.” With this technology, farmers are able to get a better grasp of what they are dealing with compared to older times where you relied on what they saw by walking through the field. “UAVs offer an easy alternative to businesses to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time.”
“One of the best things about Crop Copter is that they are located in Illinois. If anything goes wrong, you can bring it to any of our Crop Copter dealers and we can either fix it for you, or show you how to fix it yourself. Other UAV dealers are located overseas so it may take weeks before you ever get your UAV back. During the middle of summer, farmers do not have that kind of time when it comes to optimizing their nutrient and pesticide applications, farmers need to know as soon as possible if their crop is stressed during important growth stages,” states Devon. “Along with being able to help customers fix their UAVs, I am also available to help any customer when it comes to operating their drone. Crop Copter UAVs are user friendly and easy to operate which makes our UAVs useable for all types of experience levels between each of our customers.”
As I stated earlier, Devon Armstrong is a Crop Copter dealer and is located in western Illinois. I recommend everyone to go and like his Facebook page at “West Central Illinois Crop Copter” or https://www.facebook.com/westcentralcropcopter/?notif_t=fbpage_fan_invite. On this page, Devon will be posting about products he offers as well as some of the different types of UAVs Crop Copter offers to customers.
My name is Kyle Russell. I am currently a senior at Western Illinois University where I will be earning my bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Business. I started my career in Agriculture back in 2012 when I transferred to WIU from UW Stevens Point where I studied athletic training. After I finish my schooling at WIU, I will be pursuing my Master’s degree in Applied Plant Sciences.