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Balloons and drones and clouds; oh, my!

Balloons and drones and clouds; oh, my! | Drone in Agriculture | Scoop.it
Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories recently flew a tethered balloon and an unmanned aerial system, colloquially known as a drone, together for the first time to get Arctic atmospheric temperatures with better location control than ever before. In addition to providing more precise data for weather and climate models, being able to effectively operate UASs in …

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Drones: Revolutionizing the future of Agriculture

Drones: Revolutionizing the future of Agriculture | Drone in Agriculture | Scoop.it
Latest research reports suggest that the Agricultural Drones Market size is expected to surpass $1 billion by 2024. Increasing automation due to lack of skilled resources and labor crisis will fuel the industry. Upcoming government initiatives across the agricultural industry will allow large and small operations to assist in effective farming practices.

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AI, Robotics, And The Future Of Precision Agriculture

AI, Robotics, And The Future Of Precision Agriculture | Drone in Agriculture | Scoop.it
Agricultural tech startups have raised over $800M in the last 5 years.  Deals to startups using robotics and machine learning to solve problems in agriculture started gaining momentum in 2014, in line with the rising interest in artificial intelligence across multiple industries like healthcare, finance, and commerce.

Smart money VCs like Bessemer Venture Partners, Accel Partners, Khosla Ventures, Lux Capital, and Data Collective have invested in general-purpose drone and computer vision companies with a focus on agricultural applications, like DJI and Orbital Insight, as well as ag tech startups like Blue River Technology. Big corporations like Monsanto and Syngenta, which are active ag tech investors, have also backed companies like Resson and previously mentioned Blue River Technology.

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Drones give farmers an eye in the sky to check on crop progress

Drones give farmers an eye in the sky to check on crop progress | Drone in Agriculture | Scoop.it

This growing season, crop researchers at the University of Illinois are experimenting with the use of drones – unmanned aerial vehicles – on the university's South Farms.

Dennis Bowman, a crop sciences educator with U. of I. Extension, is using two drones to take aerial pictures of crops growing in research plots on the farms. He presented his findings to farmers and other researchers at the 2014 Ford / Iroquois County Agronomy Day meeting.

Bowman intentionally made mistakes on one test plot – "areas where we didn't apply enough nitrogen fertilizer, where we simulated mistakes in the applicator, where we shut the boom off for a short period of time or plugged it up and ran for a while," Bowman said. "As the crop gets up and going, we'll fly over it and see if we can detect those areas sooner than we could visually from the ground.

"We're also looking at doing some scans over our herbicide studies to see if the drone photography can help us identify where crops are stressed by postemergence herbicide applications."

For farmers, aerial photographs taken by drones offer a quick and easy way to check on the progress of crops and determine where they may need to replant or direct pesticide applications.

"I spent two summers as a commercial crop scout before I went into Extension, and walking through tasseling corn in the heat of summer is not a pleasant task," Bowman said. "The odds of actually getting to the far end of that field on foot to see what's going on are pretty slim. To get a bird's-eye view of your crop, the drones offer a handy way to do it."

Both drones Bowman is using are multirotor helicopters, or quadricopters. Bowman bought the first drone last fall. It's a remote-controlled Phantom, manufactured by the company DJI. This spring, he bought a second aircraft, an A.R. Drone 2.0 with GPS produced by the French wireless electronics manufacturer Parrot.

Using rechargeable lithium polymer batteries, each drone can make flights of about 10 to 15 minutes. The computers in the drones are similar to those used in smartphones.

The Phantom, which cost about $500, was a ready-to-fly model equipped with a mount for a GoPro camera. With the addition of the mount, a camera and a gimbal to keep the camera level, Bowman's total investment was about $1,000.

When the Phantom is turned on, its computer starts the GPS, and the flight control system runs through a one- to two-minute process of locating and locking on to GPS satellites to establish the drone's home position. If launched properly by allowing the flight control system to orient itself with the satellites, the Phantom drone will return to within 1 meter of its home position when the operator turns the transmitter off.

The Parrot drone, which cost about $250, can be controlled with a smartphone or tablet using Apple or Android operating systems and Wi-Fi signals. The Parrot came with a protective polystyrene hull for use indoors, and Bowman has demonstrated it during meetings with area farmers.

"When I'm running the Parrot drone during a conference, I pick somebody that looks scared when I pull it out, and I take the iPad over to them and tell them I'm going to have them launch it for me," Bowman said. "You press the screen where it says 'take off' and the drone pops up 3 feet in the air, hovers and waits for you to take over flying it."

"Standard pictures and video taken with drones can tell us a lot," Bowman said. "But what we're looking to give us even more information is multispectral cameras that can give us imagery in other wavelengths, such as near-infrared, to help us identify areas of crop stress. It probably isn't going to tell us what the problem is, but it will tell us where problems are so that we can target our scouting in those specific areas and determine what might be occurring."

Bowman has a Canon Powershot SX260 camera that has been modified and equipped with an upgraded lens for infrared photography, which will help the researchers identify plants in the South Farms' plots that appear to be absorbing or reflecting light differently, an indication that the plants are under some type of stress, such as pests, disease or nutrient deficiencies.

The drones also may be deployed in the battle against Palmer amaranth, an invasive weed that is spreading across the Midwest and has been found on the South Farms. Palmer amaranth is becoming increasingly resistant to herbicides and spreads so prolifically that it could drastically reduce farmers' yield potential in affected fields.

"Before the soybean rows close, or if we get a different spectrum response from some of these weeds as they break through the canopy, we may see some of those weeds show up in the imagery as well to identify where there are hot spots and problems," Bowman said.

Commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles in U.S. airspace was banned by the Federal Aviation Administration in 2007, although growing numbers of hobbyists have been toying with the use of drones, particularly for aerial photography.

However, facing mounting pressure from agribusiness, retail and other industries, the FAA is expected to release new policies by 2015 that will enable businesses to integrate drones into their operations. The agriculture industry is expected to be one of the largest market segments for drone usage.

"If the FAA rules come through, and the price of the technology comes down, it doesn't seem all that far-fetched to me to think that not too far in the future a farmer will get up in the morning, hit a button and launch a couple drones that fly out over his farms and collect imagery that's sent wirelessly to his office," Bowman said. "And one of the first things he could do at the beginning of the day is sit down and scan his fields to see if anything has happened that needs his attention."

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Drones may provide big lift to agriculture when FAA allows their use

Drones may provide big lift to agriculture when FAA allows their use | Drone in Agriculture | Scoop.it

When Steve Morris began building unmanned aerial systems in the late 1990s, he envisioned flying them over fields and collecting data that would be useful to farmers.

But after the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, drones became largely associated with military strikes and surveillance operations. Morris said the technology became the subject of contentious political debates and public paranoia.

"The entire dream evaporated at that point," said Morris, founder and president of MLB Co. in Santa Clara, Calif. "In an alternate universe where [drones] rose to prominence through helping the economy, creating businesses and jobs, people would have a different view of them."

More than a decade later, attention is refocusing on development of drones for commercial purposes. Amazon.com Inc., Google Inc. and Walt Disney Co. are grabbing headlines with plans to develop drones for deliveries, mapping and entertainment.

I think it's going to change agriculture as we know it in North America. It's definitely going to allow producers to become much more efficient.- Scott Shearer, a professor at Ohio State University and an expert in precision agriculture

But the big boom in unmanned aircraft may come from what's known as precision agriculture — using high-tech systems to help farmers increase yields and cut costs.

In recent years, consumer-quality drones that are cheaper and easier to fly have become commonplace, but Federal Aviation Administration rules have restricted their civilian use to recreation and research in all but a few cases. That has led Morris and others to market their agricultural drones overseas, where regulations are not as strict.

Sunnyvale, Calif., technology company Trimble began offering agricultural drones in January and is currently selling them in foreign markets. Indiana-based drone maker PrecisionHawk says it has projects in Canada, South America and Australia.

California farmers and technologists from the Russian River Valley to Silicon Valley say they are eager to put drones to commercial use here at home.

Some, like YangQuan Chen, an engineering professor at UC Merced, envision a new "data drone valley" in the state's Central Valley, not far from the tech giants and venture capitalists of the Bay Area.

"I see a bright future. That's the reason I started my lab in the Central Valley," said Chen, who was doing research with agriculture drones at Utah State University before joining the UC Merced faculty and starting the school's mechatronics lab in 2012.

The unmanned aerial systems can be programmed to fly low over fields and stream photos and videos to a ground station, where the images can be stitched together into maps or analyzed to gauge crop health. They can also be modified to land and take soil and water samples. One day they could be used in the U.S. as precision crop-dusters.

"The application of these data drones is only limited by our imagination," Chen said.


 

Agriculture could be the proving ground for commercial drone applications, partly because operating in rural areas far from crowds, large airports and tall buildings alleviates privacy and safety concerns.

Many experts believe that drones could revolutionize the industry.

"I think it's going to change agriculture as we know it in North America," said Scott Shearer, a professor at Ohio State University and an expert in precision agriculture. "It's definitely going to allow producers to become much more efficient."

Shearer said drones already can be used to provide more timely crop data and higher-resolution aerial imagery at a fraction of the cost of using traditional piloted aircraft or satellites.

"It's a bit of a game changer," Shearer said.

A 2013 study by a drone trade group estimated that future commercial drone markets would be largely in agriculture, with some in public safety such as law enforcement, firefighting and emergency management.



The study, by the Assn. for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, projected that the economic effect of integrating drones into the national airspace would top $2.3 billion in California in the first three years, more than in any other state, leading to the creation of more than 12,000 jobs in this state alone.

Some experts caution that the trade group's predictions may be too optimistic, but they acknowledge that there is a huge opportunity for agricultural drones.

The benefits of ag drones are promising for farmers growing largely commodity crops in the Midwest, but Shearer said they may be even greater for those cultivating high-value crops, such as California's wine grape growers.

Ryan Kunde, winemaker for DRNK Wines near Sebastopol, has been testing drones with the goal of one day using them to help make decisions in the vineyard — where to harvest first, what plants need more nutrients, which areas need more water and which need less.


"Small increases in productivity make a huge impact," Kunde said. "It's farming smarter."

Kunde began tinkering with drones in 2010, and eventually formed a company to provide drone monitoring data to grape growers for a fee. But until the FAA approves commercial drone use, that business is "kind of in a holding pattern," he said.

"The market is there. We just don't have the guidelines to regulate it," Kunde said.

Drone advocates say wider use depends on the complex process of integrating unmanned aircraft into national airspace, which will start to be outlined in forthcoming FAA rules.

That integration was congressionally mandated by September 2015, though a recent Transportation Department audit found that the FAA is likely to miss that deadline. The FAA has said rules governing small drones under 55 pounds that fly below 400 feet will be introduced later this year, but some industry officials cautioned that they may not take effect until 2016.

Very few commercial operators have received FAA exemptions allowing them to use drones in the U.S. Monrovia drone maker AeroVironment Inc. this year became the first to get approval for commercial use of a drone over land for its Puma AE UAS, which monitors BP Exploration Inc.'s remote Prudhoe Bay oil field in Alaska.

The company plans to offer crop monitoring services for farmers, AeroVironment spokesman Steven Gitlin said, but FAA rules are holding it back.

"We could deliver valuable information to farmers tomorrow, if the rules allowed it," Gitlin said.

Some researchers at California's public universities have received limited federal approval to fly drones as part of their research. Chen, the UC Merced professor, is using drones to develop a way to turn drone data into useful guidance that farmers can follow to boost yields.

At UC Davis, professor Ken Giles has approval to fly the 200-pound Yamaha RMAX helicopter, which has been used in Japan for more than two decades as a nimble crop-duster. Part of his research is collecting the data needed to guide future regulations on the use of such remote-controlled aerial sprayers in the U.S.

Giles, who has a pilot's license, said that unlike many of the smaller drones, which can be programmed to fly a certain path without human guidance, the RMAX is not autonomous. That, plus its limited payload capacity — it can fly for about 15 minutes at full spray before needing to be refilled — could slow its adoption for U.S. agriculture.

But the technology, he said, has the potential to deliver "a level of accountability and precision that we haven't had before."

chad.garland@latimes.com

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The Farming of the Future: Agriculture Drones Take to the Skies

The Farming of the Future: Agriculture Drones Take to the Skies | Drone in Agriculture | Scoop.it
Agriculture already leads the market for commercial drone usage, and it is expected to generate $350 million in drone revenue in 2025. The new regulations will make it easier for American farmers to use drones to check fields for disease, spray fertilizer, or watch over livestock.

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5 Drones for Precision Agriculture

5 Drones for Precision Agriculture | Drone in Agriculture | Scoop.it
5 Drones for Precision Agriculture: Jan 13, 2017 -- Drones (also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) are used for various applications such as surveying, surveillance and habitat mapping. An interesting new application is precision agriculture. Drones can be used for precise crop-management, vegetation analysis, volume measurement, 3dmodels creation and many other uses. You can find a selection of 5 precision agriculture drones. Multispectral and Thermal Cameras for Precision …
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How do you plant 1 billion trees a year? With drones, of course

How do you plant 1 billion trees a year? With drones, of course | Drone in Agriculture | Scoop.it

Instead of doing surveillance or carrying out military missions, the drones from BioCarbon Engineering are taking on a decidedly more progressive task: planting trees and reversing deforestation.


Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), have taken off in popularity recently, with hobbyists and professionals alike using these small remotely-guided devices for everything from delivering packages to surveying wildlife populations, but one startup has a very ambitious plan for their drones, and one that could have a huge positive impact on global deforestation.


"We are going to counter industrial scale deforestation using industrial scale reforestation. Destruction of global forests from lumber, mining, agriculture, and urban expansion destroys 26 billion trees each year. We believe that this industrial scale deforestation is best combated using the latest automation technologies." - BioCarbon Engineering


BioCarbon Engineering, based in the UK, has developed a system of planting trees with drones, at just a fraction of the cost (15%) of traditional reforestation methods, and at a speed that manual planting can't match - up to 10s of thousands of trees planted per day - and aims to plant 1 billion trees per year using this technology.


This approach, using an industrial-scale reforestation method, isn't quite ready for prime-time, but its prototype, which won £20k in funding from the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship last year, is expected to be built into a fully functioning platform by the end of the year.



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Drones and driverless tractors – is this the future of farming?

Drones and driverless tractors – is this the future of farming? | Drone in Agriculture | Scoop.it
With more than half of the British countryside being managed by precision farming methods, is the new agricultural revolution gathering pace?

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Unused TV spectrum and drones could help make smart farms a reality

Unused TV spectrum and drones could help make smart farms a reality | Drone in Agriculture | Scoop.it
ON THE Dancing Crow farm in Washington, sunflowers and squashes soak up the rich autumn sunshine beside a row of solar panels. This bucolic smallholding provides organic vegetables to the farmers' markets of Seattle. But it is also home to an experiment by Microsoft, a big computing firm, that it hopes will transform agriculture further afield. For the past year, the firm's engineers have been developing a suite of technologies there to slash the cost of "precision agriculture", which aims to use sensors and clever algorithms to deliver water, fertilisers and pesticides only to crops that actually need them.

Precision agriculture is one of the technologies that could help to feed a world whose population is forecast to hit almost 10 billion by 2050. If farmers can irrigate only when necessary, and avoid excessive pesticide use, they should be able to save money and boost their output.

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Farm2050: Silicon Valley's Attempt At Cashing In On The New Farming Revolution

Farm2050: Silicon Valley's Attempt At Cashing In On The New Farming Revolution | Drone in Agriculture | Scoop.it

Can organic farming feed the world? Possibly, but it depends on who you ask. Even if it can and ultimately does, the future of farming won't look much like the industry did a decade years ago. Data science and all the technologies that go along with it—sensors, computers, and so on—are making it possible for farmers to grow crops more efficiently, and Silicon Valley is intrigued with the monetary possibilities.


In November, Flextronics’ Lab IX and Innovation Endeavors, a VC fund backed by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, announced the creation of Farm2050, an initiative that will offer funding and support to startups that want to cash in on the new farming revolution. But can Silicon Valley really transform farms from afar?

How can robotics and automation make farming much efficient?

"We're looking for startups that apply tech to make impact in new market—how can robotics and automation make farming much efficient, how can we use data sciences to make the farm more efficient?" says Dror Berman, managing partner at Innovation Endeavors. "We’ve been already seeing a lot of new companies in the space." Even Monsanto—not a partner in Farm2050—is getting in on the trend, acquiring weather data startup The Climate Corporation in 2013.

A recent New York Times article on data science in farming offers some insight into the kinds of technologies that Farm2050 might invest in. One example:

At a large family farm in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, Brian Braswell uses satellite-connected tractors to plow fields with accuracy of one inch between furrows. His soil was tested with electrical charges, then mapped so that fertilizer is applied in exact doses from computer-controlled machines. He uses drones, the newest new thing, to survey flood irrigation.

Farm2050's big challenge is that, chances are, most of the startups applying for help from the initiative are divorced from the day-to-day realities of farming. Berman is hopeful that Farm2050's partners, including DuPont and Flextronics (which can provide manufacturing assistance) will help them figure out the innovations that farmers want.

So far, data technologies have been available mainly to large farms that can afford their high prices. Hopefully, Farm2050 will look at startups that can make sensor and robotics systems more accessible to small-time operations—though Berman says that it is, of course, looking for "highly scalable" technologies.

Farm2050 will look at applications from startups over the next few months.

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DJI's agriculture drone takes to the air down on the farm

DJI's agriculture drone takes to the air down on the farm | Drone in Agriculture | Scoop.it
Drones are starting to emerge as highly suitable tools for farming. This is of course not lost on the world's biggest drone maker DJI, who has just a launched a machine for farmers that can be programmed to cover acres of farmland in pesticides every hour.

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Could drones launch an aerial revolution in crop spraying?

Could drones launch an aerial revolution in crop spraying? | Drone in Agriculture | Scoop.it

A Norfolk firm has secured the exclusive UK rights for a crop-spraying drone – an innovation which the company’s founder hopes could be the first step in an aerial agricultural revolution.


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The Next Generation of Drone Technologies For Agriculture - AgFunderNews

The Next Generation of Drone Technologies For Agriculture - AgFunderNews | Drone in Agriculture | Scoop.it
The well-documented potential for drones to revolutionize agriculture reached fever pitch in 2015.

The robotic technology captured the imagination of investors, entrepreneurs, and farming businesses alike as a means to take over certain tasks on the farm and play a role in ‘precision agriculture’ — the modern farming technique aimed at making production more efficient through the precise application of inputs and machinery.

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Drones give farmers an eye in the sky to check on crop progress

Drones give farmers an eye in the sky to check on crop progress | Drone in Agriculture | Scoop.it

This growing season, crop researchers at the University of Illinois are experimenting with the use of drones – unmanned aerial vehicles – on the university's South Farms.

Dennis Bowman, a crop sciences educator with U. of I. Extension, is using two drones to take aerial pictures of crops growing in research plots on the farms. He presented his findings to farmers and other researchers at the 2014 Ford / Iroquois County Agronomy Day meeting.

Bowman intentionally made mistakes on one test plot – "areas where we didn't apply enough nitrogen fertilizer, where we simulated mistakes in the applicator, where we shut the boom off for a short period of time or plugged it up and ran for a while," Bowman said. "As the crop gets up and going, we'll fly over it and see if we can detect those areas sooner than we could visually from the ground.

"We're also looking at doing some scans over our herbicide studies to see if the drone photography can help us identify where crops are stressed by postemergence herbicide applications."

For farmers, aerial photographs taken by drones offer a quick and easy way to check on the progress of crops and determine where they may need to replant or direct pesticide applications.

"I spent two summers as a commercial crop scout before I went into Extension, and walking through tasseling corn in the heat of summer is not a pleasant task," Bowman said. "The odds of actually getting to the far end of that field on foot to see what's going on are pretty slim. To get a bird's-eye view of your crop, the drones offer a handy way to do it."

Both drones Bowman is using are multirotor helicopters, or quadricopters. Bowman bought the first drone last fall. It's a remote-controlled Phantom, manufactured by the company DJI. This spring, he bought a second aircraft, an A.R. Drone 2.0 with GPS produced by the French wireless electronics manufacturer Parrot.

Using rechargeable lithium polymer batteries, each drone can make flights of about 10 to 15 minutes. The computers in the drones are similar to those used in smartphones.

The Phantom, which cost about $500, was a ready-to-fly model equipped with a mount for a GoPro camera. With the addition of the mount, a camera and a gimbal to keep the camera level, Bowman's total investment was about $1,000.

When the Phantom is turned on, its computer starts the GPS, and the flight control system runs through a one- to two-minute process of locating and locking on to GPS satellites to establish the drone's home position. If launched properly by allowing the flight control system to orient itself with the satellites, the Phantom drone will return to within 1 meter of its home position when the operator turns the transmitter off.

The Parrot drone, which cost about $250, can be controlled with a smartphone or tablet using Apple or Android operating systems and Wi-Fi signals. The Parrot came with a protective polystyrene hull for use indoors, and Bowman has demonstrated it during meetings with area farmers.

"When I'm running the Parrot drone during a conference, I pick somebody that looks scared when I pull it out, and I take the iPad over to them and tell them I'm going to have them launch it for me," Bowman said. "You press the screen where it says 'take off' and the drone pops up 3 feet in the air, hovers and waits for you to take over flying it."

"Standard pictures and video taken with drones can tell us a lot," Bowman said. "But what we're looking to give us even more information is multispectral cameras that can give us imagery in other wavelengths, such as near-infrared, to help us identify areas of crop stress. It probably isn't going to tell us what the problem is, but it will tell us where problems are so that we can target our scouting in those specific areas and determine what might be occurring."

Bowman has a Canon Powershot SX260 camera that has been modified and equipped with an upgraded lens for infrared photography, which will help the researchers identify plants in the South Farms' plots that appear to be absorbing or reflecting light differently, an indication that the plants are under some type of stress, such as pests, disease or nutrient deficiencies.

The drones also may be deployed in the battle against Palmer amaranth, an invasive weed that is spreading across the Midwest and has been found on the South Farms. Palmer amaranth is becoming increasingly resistant to herbicides and spreads so prolifically that it could drastically reduce farmers' yield potential in affected fields.

"Before the soybean rows close, or if we get a different spectrum response from some of these weeds as they break through the canopy, we may see some of those weeds show up in the imagery as well to identify where there are hot spots and problems," Bowman said.

Commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles in U.S. airspace was banned by the Federal Aviation Administration in 2007, although growing numbers of hobbyists have been toying with the use of drones, particularly for aerial photography.

However, facing mounting pressure from agribusiness, retail and other industries, the FAA is expected to release new policies by 2015 that will enable businesses to integrate drones into their operations. The agriculture industry is expected to be one of the largest market segments for drone usage.

"If the FAA rules come through, and the price of the technology comes down, it doesn't seem all that far-fetched to me to think that not too far in the future a farmer will get up in the morning, hit a button and launch a couple drones that fly out over his farms and collect imagery that's sent wirelessly to his office," Bowman said. "And one of the first things he could do at the beginning of the day is sit down and scan his fields to see if anything has happened that needs his attention."

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Drone to fly over livestock operations and 'ag-gag' laws

Drone to fly over livestock operations and 'ag-gag' laws | Drone in Agriculture | Scoop.it

An independent journalist says he’s found a way around the so-called “ag-gag” laws – flying drones over large livestock operations to document animal welfare problems and pollution.

Will Potter, a Washington D.C.-based environmental blogger, raised $75,000 on Kickstarter to buy drones and other equipment to do investigative work tracking animal abuse and pollution problems on large livestock operations.

Potter sees the effort as a way to circumvent regulations in at least seven states that outlaw undercover whistleblowers who work in concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs. Called “ag-gag” by critics and passed after several high-profile cases, the laws make it illegal for anyone to videotape or record on the farms.

While lauded in a few national stories, reaction to Potter’s plan in farm country has ranged from outright anger, invitations to visit the farms, and warnings about the drones becoming target practice.

Emily Meredith, a spokeswoman for the Animal Ag Alliance, a coalition of farm and commodity groups, defended the laws, saying they act as a deterrent to the activists – who she calls the “detractor community.”

The activists use deceptive practices to spread misinformation, Meredith said, who is also critical of the term “ag gag.”

“I think that the farm protection legislation and different bills that have been introduced (are) trying to give farmers who have been victimized by these groups some sort of recourse, some sort of protection against their deceptive tactics,” she said.

In an interview, Potter said he will focus on the anti-whistleblower laws, going to states where they are being debated. He promises he will air his findings in an e-book and a short documentary.

Potter said he’s not attempting to get footage comparable to that obtained through undercover investigations by groups like Mercy for Animals and the Humane Society.

“I was primarily motivated by what’s happening outside of those closed doors, but is still invisible and hidden from the public spotlight,” he said. “In particular I was motivated by seeing these aerial photographs and satellite imagery of farm pollution, of waste lagoons, of sprawling industrial operations.”

Chuck Jolley, a meat industry veteran and president of the Meat Industry Hall of Farm, took a light touch to the topic in a beef magazine.

“Those things better not be coming over during duck season because there are hunters out there that might look up and mistake that drone for a duck,” he wrote.

Jolley, based in Kansas City, is highly critical of the ag-gag laws and believes that farmers and ranchers should open their doors to anyone who wants to see their operations. Jolley’s not alone – Temple Grandin, the animal scientist who was the subject of a popular HBO biopic, has urged placing video cameras in slaughterhouses and livestreaming  the production lines.

“What you’re really doing is handing an issue to the anti-ag people and saying, ‘Yeah, I’ve got something to hide and I’ve got laws to protect me,’” Jolley said.

Angry commenters on Jolley’s piece called the animal rights activists “terrorists” and “zealots” who don’t understand agriculture and who edit the videos to maximum effect.

“Let them fly their drones,” Pat commented on Jolley’s piece. “Who cares, as long as we have some effective means of prosecuting them for illegal trespass, invasion of privacy or harassment?”

Whether those flying the drones could be prosecuted is still a legal question. Clemens Kochinke, a Washington D.C.-based lawyer who authors the blog “Drone Law,” said the law is unclear about monitoring ag businesses and it takes years to test the laws in court.

“Aside from the many federal issues involving the FAA and Homeland Security, you have the state, county and municipal rules,” he said. “An overriding limitation on the restriction of drones may derive from the First Amendment where reporting in the public interest is concerned.”

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Drone gap? US has one in farming, say experts

Drone gap?  US has one in farming, say experts | Drone in Agriculture | Scoop.it

A drone flying over vineyards in Pessac, France.

The Federal Aviation Administration next month is expected to issue preliminary guidelines on the commercial use of unmanned aircraft systems or as they are better known, drones. 

For the most part, drones are currently banned in the U.S., while other countries have more open use policy. And it could take months, even years before the FAA finalizes its rules.

That's a problem for many in American agriculture who say the U.S. already is failing to keep up with other nations in drone use that could provide billions of dollars in economic growth. 

"We're behind the eight ball when it comes to places like Japan and Australia, which have been using drones in agriculture since the 1980s," said R.J. Karney, director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau. "There's an urgency to get the ball moving on this," he said.

Read MoreWhy one insurance firm wants to start using drones

Karney explained that as other countries develop drones, American farmers are missing out on using technology that could help produce more food. 

"It's not only the potential users but the developers who are having to play catch up," Karney said. 

Tami Griffin, managing director of Aon Risk Solutions' food system and agribusiness practice, said the U.S. is missing out on a big opportunity to help farmers.

"Drones have great potential for mapping and assessing the health of crops and livestock so that producers can know how quickly they need to devote attention to those areas," she said. 

Where drones are used

The U.S. armed services use drones overseas. And at home, they are used in American airspace as unmanned aircraft flying border and port surveillance for the Department of Homeland Security.

They are also used in scientific research and environmental monitoring. Various law enforcement agencies and some state universities conducting research are allowed to use drones.

Smaller drones are used as recreational aircraft or "hobby flying." And some businesses can be granted exemptions to use drones. 

However, farmers cannot use them. 

Read MoreDrones with cameras: A billion-dollar business?

That's costing the U.S. economy, according to a report from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

The report says the drone industry could generate more than $82 billion for the economy in the first decade of its commercial use, with agriculture accounting for $75 billion of that figure. 

"The economic benefits are significant," said Chris D'Couto, president and CEO of Neah Power Systems. 

D'Couto said his company has entered into a partnership with a drone company to develop fuel cell power for drones that could extend their flying time from the usual two hours to up to eight. 

"Our take is that developing countries are more receptive to drones than the U.S. is," he said. 

FAA's issues

The main issues confronting the FAA on commercial drone use is twofold: safety and privacy issues. 

There's concern drones could harm people on the ground while people's privacy from drones raises civil liberty issues. 

In January of this year, FAA Administrator Michel Huerta told a Senate panel looking into drone rules and regulations that, "Even today, we don't have a full and complete understanding of where this is going in the future, and that's one of the things that creates the greatest opportunity and the greatest challenges." 

Neah Power Systems' D'Couto said a good place to start would be with farmers.

Read MoreOne town has its hand in 1000s of pumpkin pies

"It's important to work out privacy and safety concerns but with farmland you have a lot of open space," he argued. "I don't think they pose much of a safety risk." 

Peter Schmitz, CEO of Aon Risk Solutions' aviation practice, said his firm provides insurance for unmanned vehicles and that the dangers posed by drones can't be ignored. 

"They can always get in the hands of the wrong people, like laser pointers have become at times," he said. "That's why the government is being so careful." 

Schmitz suggested that as long as the FAA had tough regulations regarding drones, such as altitude restrictions, the problems could be worked out. 

Waiting on FAA

It's not just farmers waiting on the FAA to come up with permanent rules. 

Companies such as Google and Amazon are also interested: Each has said they are developing a system of drones to deliver goods in the U.S. Google's already delivered products in Australia. 

Amazon's big drones plans may stay grounded

Movie studios are also trying to get into the act. The FAA last month approved applications from six film companies to use camera-equipped drones on certain movie and television sets.

American Farm Bureau's Karney said he hopes the waiting for agriculture is over. 

"Not every farmer wants drones or will use them, but it's critical to get this going for the agriculture industry here," he argued. "We are really falling behind."

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The War is Not Over: Why Agriculture Drones Deserve a Closer Look

The War is Not Over: Why Agriculture Drones Deserve a Closer Look | Drone in Agriculture | Scoop.it
I’ve been researching and writing about agriculture drone solutions since early 2012. I recently came across this OpEd in PrecisionAg titled “Opinion: The Agricultural Drone War Is Over, And They Lost” and read it with great interest. Two and half years ago, our research indicated the same thing—that small drones might not be able to deliver more usable data to a farmer or provide a cost benefit over the existing image solutions available to them.

Even last year I had my doubts. In our June 2016 report, The Truth about Drones in Precision Agriculture, we looked at how drones have been used as remote sensing devices in agriculture thus far, reviewed competitive and traditional approaches using incumbent technology (like satellites and manned aircraft), and discussed the opportunities and challenges posed by the technology itself.

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Poll: 33% of Farmers Flying Drones This Year

Poll: 33% of Farmers Flying Drones This Year | Drone in Agriculture | Scoop.it
Drones have been hot talk in agriculture for the past several seasons. But how popular are they, really? According to a recent Farm Journal Media Pulse poll that surveyed more than a thousand farmers and ranchers, use of this technology has definitely gained a firm foothold in the industry.
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How drones lift agriculture in Bulgaria to a higher plane - FT.com

How drones lift agriculture in Bulgaria to a higher plane - FT.com | Drone in Agriculture | Scoop.it
Stefan Dimitrov, a farmer in Bulgaria’s central Rose Valley, has some unusual guardians to protect his 1,500 hectares of land from criminals, wild animals and crop failure: they fly at 60 kilometres per hour and run on rechargeable batteries. Mr

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Dorothy R. Cook 's curator insight, August 2, 8:43 AM

God has not Forvotten but who really know's such things can be and is done? 

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Why 2015 is the year agriculture drones take off

Why 2015 is the year agriculture drones take off | Drone in Agriculture | Scoop.it
U.S. drones are expected to change how we cultivate and grow food across the country.

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Daniel Lindahl's curator insight, May 25, 2015 1:14 PM

Drones are becoming more and more prevalent not only in the US, but all over the world. It seems that 2015 will be the year that drones become commonplace in agriculture, which will further revolutionize the way crops are grown. 

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The 7 Best Agricultural Drones on the Market Today - DRONELIFE

The 7 Best Agricultural Drones on the Market Today - DRONELIFE | Drone in Agriculture | Scoop.it

It’s no secret drones are becoming increasingly popular on America’s farms. As demand for drone data rises, so too do the number of companies that can provide it. Despite the FAA’s supposed restriction on the use of agricultural drones, the space is attracting more dollars and getting more crowded every day.

If you are looking to fly on the farm, it is important to identify exactly what your goal is before you buy so you can find the platform that best aligns with your needs. After all, these drones require a significant investment of both time and money.

To help get you started, here are some of the companies that have emerged as key players in the space and provide some of the most comprehensive aerial agricultural solutions on the market.

AgDrone:

Oregon-based HoneyComb provides an all-in-one hardware/software/data storage solution with their AgDrone. The drone itself can be outfitted with an array of sensors including thermal imaging, stereoscopic and multispectral NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index).  All data collected by the AgDrone is stored on the HoneyComb servers and can be accessed from any computer but the package includes a tablet that puts control and data acquisition literally at your finger tips.

Autonomous flights can be plotted and saved right on the tablet. There is no need for any extra hardware.

 AgDrone UAS by HoneyCombBattery Life: 31-60 MinutesCamera: 1080p HDPRODUCT INFORMATION$14,995PURCHASE INFO  eBee Ag:

senseFly’s eBee Ag drone is a version of its popular eBee platform custom-fit to fly down on the farm. The drone comes standard with an infrared camera, but optional add ons can give users the capability to create 3D thermal maps of a field.

senseFly’s eMotion flight planning and control software (for PCs and Windows tablets) allows users to plan and simulate a flight before takeoff and then monitor the flight or make edits to the route while the drone is in the air. eMotion is also compatible with Google Earth.

 eBee Ag by SenseFlyBattery Life: 31-60 MinutesCamera: 1080p HDPRODUCT INFORMATION$25,000PURCHASE INFO  Lancaster:

PrecisionHawk’s Lancaster is a soup-to-nuts solution constructed with first time flyers in mind. The purchase of a Lancaster includes a free 30 minute online class, but PrecisionHawk offers options for hands on training at one of their sites or they can come to you.

The sensor package includes LIDAR and Hyperspectral imaging along with the standard thermal/visual/multispectral and it can be spec-ed out depending on your needs. PrecisionHawk also touts the Lancaster’s ‘brain’ – a basic artificial intelligence that detects weather conditions to create its own optimal flight path in real time and assess data from the sensors as it is collected, eliminating the need for a second flight.

Case Study

 Lancaster Hawkeye Mark III by Precision HawkBattery Life: 31-60 MinutesCamera: 1080p HDPRODUCT INFORMATION$25,000PURCHASE INFO  Crop Mapper:

Based in Toulouse, France, Delair-Tech offers industry-specific packages that can be outfitted to either of their DT-18 or DT-26 UAVs. Included with the purchase of either drone is a five day training program.

The Crop Mapper package is best suited for projects that cover a large area. The package comes standard with Delair’s Solapp flight control software and Pix4D‘s Mapper imaging processing software.

Case Study

 DT-18 by Delair-TechBattery Life: Greater than 60 MinutesCamera: 1080p HDPRODUCT INFORMATION$37,700PURCHASE INFO  AG550:

Longtime UAS distributor Aerial Technology International recently jumped into the world of agriculture and began selling custom multi-rotor drones that can be configured with all the standard cameras and sensors. While multi-rotor drones don’t have the same extensive battery life as a fixed-wing model, they are much more agile and can be flown very close to the ground (they also tend to be much cheaper).

Plus, ATI offers a free consultation with each inquiry they receive so you can be sure your drone is optimized for your needs.

 AG550 by Aerial Technology InternationalBattery Life: Under 30 MinutesCamera: 1080p HDPRODUCT INFORMATION$3,000PURCHASE INFO  Quad Indago:

Another multi-rotor solution on the market is Farm Intelligence2‘s Quad Indago. This collapsable drone sports Lockheed Martin Procerus Technologies’ Kestrel 3 autopilot and a powerful ground station laptop to support it. The system also comes standard with FI2’s Dual Band Sensor with near infrared and ultra-HD RGB capabilities.

The price tag on the Indago might be a little scary but it’s certainly one of the most advanced quadcopters money can buy.

 Quad Indago by FI2 Sales and LeasingBattery Life: 31-60 MinutesCamera: 1080p HDPRODUCT INFORMATION$25,000PURCHASE INFO  AgEagle:

The nature of farm equipment is that it takes a serious beating over time. In anticipation of this issue, the AgEagle is outfitted with a composite shell of fiberglass and carbon fiber cloth in addition to a poly carbonate skid plate. It’s an aerial tank that can fly in winds up to 20 miles an hour.

The complete AgEagle package comes standard with the aircraft, launcher, camera, software and appropriate training.

 AgEagle by AgEagleBattery Life: 31-60 MinutesCamera: 1080p HDPRODUCT INFORMATION$13,500PURCHASE INFO  

For more companies that offer agricultural UAV solutions checkout the Dronelife Product Configurator.


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Cheap Drones Give Farmers a New Way to Improve Crop Yields | MIT Technology Review

Cheap Drones Give Farmers a New Way to Improve Crop Yields | MIT Technology Review | Drone in Agriculture | Scoop.it

Relatively cheap drones with advanced sensors and imaging capabilities are giving farmers new ways to increase yields and reduce crop damage.

 

Drones can provide farmers with three types of detailed views. First, seeing a crop from the air can reveal patterns that expose everything from irrigation problems to soil variation and even pest and fungal infestations that aren’t apparent at eye level. Second, airborne cameras can take multispectral images, capturing data from the infrared as well as the visual spectrum, which can be combined to create a view of the crop that highlights differences between healthy and distressed plants in a way that can’t be seen with the naked eye. Finally, a drone can survey a crop every week, every day, or even every hour. Combined to create a time-series animation, that imagery can show changes in the crop, revealing trouble spots or opportunities for better crop management.


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Vivalist's curator insight, December 4, 2015 6:30 AM

Data-driven agriculture using tech to pilot crop growing and farm management.

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Drone detects wheat disease progression

Charlie Rush, Ph.D., hopes to use a unique method – helicopter drone – to track disease progression across wheat fields to eventually help producers make better irrigation decisions.

Rush, a Texas A&M AgriLife Research plant pathologist in Amarillo, has enlisted the help of Ian Johnson, a Montana State University-Bozeman graduate student who is using his work in the university’s Science and Natural History Filmmaking Program to help scientists conduct research.Approximately 1.1 million acres of wheat in the High Plains are irrigated, Rush said, making wheat the second-largest user of irrigation water from the Ogallala Aquifer. In this same region, mite-vectored virus diseases are the predominant pathogenic constraint to sustainable wheat production each year.The viruses causing these diseases are transmitted by the wheat curl mite, he said. Infected wheat plants not only have reduced grain and forage yields, but also greatly reduced root weight and water-use efficiency. Therefore, fertilizer and groundwater applied as irrigation to diseased wheat is largely wasted.Rush’s team is using the helicopter to take remote images of a field study where they are trying to develop an economic threshold for irrigation of wheat infected with wheat streak and other mite-vectored diseases.“The problem for farmers is that these diseases develop in gradients over time and they don’t know whether or not they should apply new pesticides or fertilizers or water,” he said. “Most of these practices are done in April, and that is when the disease is just starting to show up. They may know they have disease in the field, but they really don’t know how much damage it might cause.“So what we are trying to do is be able to go in early in the season and look at the disease development at a particular time and then based on what it looks like, say in early April, be able to give them a prediction of what the crop will be at harvest time.”To do that, Rush said his team has been going into the field using different types of remote imaging, such as the hand-held hyperspectral radiometer, to measure and quantify the severity of disease development in the field. wedge image can be made after the helicopter has made about six passes over the field. The images it captures were stitched together by Ian Johnson, a Montana State University-Bozeman graduate student, for a complete picture.
“Now the application and use of this helicopter drone is one more way of measuring the disease development,” he said. “The beautiful thing about this is instead of having to deal with handheld devices, you can come in and fly the entire field in a matter of five minutes and get a very, very high resolution. So we are excited about the possibilities this may provide for our project.”Johnson said he will use the drone to make four or five flights during the growing season and then generate results that will help Rush. This Y6 helicopter, named for its Y shape and six propellers, is made by 3D Robotics and includes an autopilot.“That allows us to preprogram flights and fly a grid. As it is flying the grid, it takes top-down photos,” Johnson said. “Once we collect the photos, we stitch them together and build a giant photo mosaic of each field we flew over. We are hoping to provide incremental photo coverage of the fields as the disease progresses through the fields.”Johnson said using this technology for agricultural research provides a whole list of improvements to the previous services available. Many researchers have used satellite imagery before, but this provides resolution 100 to 1,000 times greater than the LandSat satellite imagery Rush and his team used in the past.“That’s a huge improvement when you are looking at ground-coverage and trying to pick out diseased plants,” he said. “Another improvement is temporal resolution. We can fly this every day for a couple of weeks or every week for a whole season, whereas with satellite you have to wait two to three weeks for a pass and that is if you can get your slot. So this is a great improvement.”Another thing, Johnson said, is the drone is currently using visible spectrum only – still photographs – because the project is focused on the yellow band of light, which easily captures the typical symptoms of wheat streak mosaic.“But this is a modular system,” he said. “We could put near infrared, thermal, any array of multi-spectral sensors on here to capture whatever data it is the project demands.”Rush said one of the things he is most excited about with this new technology is that although aerial images have been taken before and unmanned aircraft have been used to measure things, “they have never been used to our knowledge to manage irrigation applications, especially in diseased crops.“This is something that is totally new,” he said. “Obviously, in the Texas Panhandle where water is such a precious resource, anything that we can do to reduce waste or farmers putting on irrigation water when it is not going to pay off for them is going to be a positive thing.”
Rush said he is confident that with the studies currently underway, this new technology will allow them to very quickly provide growers with the information they need to better manage their irrigation.
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US: Scientist uses helicopter drone to detect wheat-disease progression

US: Scientist uses helicopter drone to detect wheat-disease progression | Drone in Agriculture | Scoop.it

AMARILLO, Texas — Charlie Rush hopes to use a helicopter drone to track disease across wheat fields, to eventually help producers make better irrigation decisions.

Rush, a Texas A&M AgriLife Research plant pathologist, is being helped by Ian Johnson, a Montana State University-Bozeman graduate student who is using his work in the university’s Science and Natural History Filmmaking Program to help scientists conduct research.

Approximately 1.1 million acres of wheat in the High Plains are irrigated, Rush said, making wheat the second-largest user of irrigation water from the Ogallala Aquifer. In this same region, mite-vectored virus diseases are the predominant pathogenic constraint to sustainable wheat production each year.

The viruses causing these diseases are transmitted by the wheat curl mite, he said. Infected wheat plants have reduced grain and forage yields, and greatly reduced root weight and water-use efficiency. Therefore, fertilizer and groundwater applied as irrigation to diseased wheat is largely wasted.

The helicopter takes remote images of a field study where they are trying to develop an economic threshold for irrigation of wheat infected with wheat streak and other mite-vectored diseases.

“The problem for farmers is that these diseases develop in gradients over time and they don’t know whether or not they should apply new pesticides or fertilizers or water,” he said in a news release. “Most of these practices are done in April, and that is when the disease is just starting to show up. They may know they have disease in the field, but they don’t know how much damage it might cause.

“So, what we are trying to do is be able to go in early in the season and look at the disease development at a particular time and then based on what it looks like, say in early April, be able to give them a prediction of what the crop will be at harvest time.”...

 

 


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Rob Dawson's comment, January 13, 2014 3:42 AM
Rothamstead in the UK is using them too: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/news/food-security/2013/131202-pr-octocopter-to-monitor-crops.aspx