Drone use could save farm­ers time, cash

Albany Advertiser - - NEWS - Rueben Hale

Drone tech­nol­ogy will be­come more com­monly used be­cause it helps farm­ers make in­formed de­ci­sions, from seed­ing to har­vest.

Ac­cord­ing to Stra­tus Imag­ing di­rec­tor Jonathan Smith, drones to­day are equipped with sen­si­tive in­fra-red cam­eras for crop sur­vey­ing and large chem­i­cal stor­age ca­pac­ity.

He said Aus­tralia had been slow to use drone tech­nol­ogy in agriculture but ad­vances in the past few years had made their use a more tempt­ing propo­si­tion.

“Drones can help farm­ers us­ing yield maps from har­vest, which had pre­vi­ously tended to be put away and not used as a means to in­crease pro­duc­tiv­ity in fol­low­ing years,” he said.

“Near-in­frared im­agery can measure Nor­mal­ized Difference Veg­e­ta­tion In­dex and scout crops with pre­ci­sion, which al­lows for in-sea­son crop man­age­ment de­ci­sions.”

Mr Smith said farm­ers couldn’t make in­formed choices on what they didn’t know.

“Many peo­ple drive around their pad­docks tak­ing sam­ples and ap­ply­ing the prin­ci­ples as they’ve al­ways done,” he said.

“They go to the places they typ­i­cally go, look­ing at it all from ground level. Drones take man­age­ment to the next level by giv­ing them an ae­rial per­spec­tive.

“With above-crop sight us­ing a multi-spec­tral cam­era tak­ing five sep­a­rate im­ageries, it will pick up dis­eases and stress in the crop which would be oth­er­wise dif­fi­cult to es­tab­lish.”

Mr Smith said a com­mon mis­con­cep­tion with drones was they could di­ag­nose crop health is­sues.

“The tech­nol­ogy won’t tell you what the prob­lem is but just where to go and take a sam­ple,” he said. “That en­ables a farmer to de­velop a vari­able rate plan for rem­e­dy­ing the is­sue.

“They will save a lot of money by not hav­ing to make 100 per cent spray ap­pli­ca­tions, but in­stead only ap­ply­ing in the ar­eas that need it.”

Mr Smith said he ex­pected an “explosion” of drone use in agriculture shortly.

“Our com­pany spent 18 months work­ing through the bar­ri­ers by speak­ing to peo­ple and also look­ing at how the tech­nol­ogy has been ap­plied to agriculture in other coun­tries,” he said

“In Europe and Amer­ica, drones have been used with en­cour­ag­ing results. It is sav­ing farm­ers in those coun­tries a lot of money and time.”

Stra­tus Imag­ing gen­eral man­ager Jonathon Smith with the lat­est tech­nol­ogy AgRo­tor T6 crop-spray­ing drone, which has a 20 litre car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity.

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