As technology advances in this day and age, farmers are adapting with it. In the past 10 to 20 years agriculture has changed dramatically pertaining to technology that is available. One of the advances in agriculture, that has been a controversial topic, is the use of drones or unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). As drones become more popular, farmers and agriculture companies are starting to utilize the benefits that come with use of UAVs. Drones are used often in crops that have tall growth. Corn is a crop that can grow over 7 feet tall. This height makes it hard to scout a field and be able to find problems in a middle of a 100 plus acre field. This is where drones come into play. By July, in most regions corn is already at least six feet tall, drones are used to take aerial footage of the corn. Some of the problems farmers can detect in a corn field by using drones are: disease, stunted corn, nitrogen deficiency, lodging (fallen down corn), and flooding (standing water). Before the use of drones it was near impossible to find some of these problems in the middle of big fields, it made farmers infer as to the health of the field on the basis of the health of the end rows. With UAVs, if a farmer sees a problem on the aerial footage in a certain area, he can walk to that spot and determine a solution to the problem. Some of the popular drones in agriculture are the Phantom, Ag Eagle, AgDrone, eBee Ag, Lancaster, and the Crop Copter.
The drone in the figure is the Phantom 2, it has a HD camera and is a very popular crop production UAV. These UAVs can do a couple different types of footage. Some of the drones can do Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) footage. This camera uses infrared sensors and takes pictures to make a field map of vegetation rates. The field map will show different colors based on how much of the infrared lights reflect. The health of the crop is based off of how much light is being reflected back. A damaged leaf with little amounts of green will hardly reflect any light back, it will show up as red on the map. Healthy leaves that are green will reflect a lot of light and will show up green on the map. Yellow color on the map is moderate health and moderate light reflected back. This can tell farmers if there is a disease problem in the field, and help them to know when to spray fungicides. When Vegetation is low that means disease is high and needs a fungicide application.The below figure is the NDVI field map that can be produced from the AG Eagle. http://geovantage.com/applications/precision-agriculture/crop-health/
I personally use drones while scouting corn fields, and have seen numerous benefits first hand. Drones make crop scouting a lot easier and also more precise when it comes to finding problems. I use two different drones, the Phantom 2 and the AG Eagle. The Ag Eagle with the NDVI camera, allows for the user to see the presence of diseases. If a disease is present, I can decide the type of fungicide to use and to what extent. The Phantom 2 is also very useful. In June, I start using the Phantom 2 and continue to use till August. This type of drone helps me find problem areas in the field. For example, this past year was very wet and there were many storms with high winds. This resulted in large amounts of lodging, when I found fields with some down corn on the end rows, I would fly the drone over the field and watch the video to see if there was lodging throughout the field. Also, with the high amounts of rain, there were many areas that were underwater and had a nitrogen deficiency. The Phantom 2 shows me the exact location in the field where the problem exist. I truly believe that UVAs are a great tool for farmers and drone technology will continue to improve the agriculture industry.
My name is Jordan Detweiler I am from Williamsburg, Iowa. I grew up on a grain and hog farm. I am a senior at Western Illinois University and earning my Bachelor’s degree in Agribusiness and minoring in Agronomy and Pre-MBA. After my undergrad I plan on getting my MBA Masters at Western Illinois.