Farmers’ eyes in the sky aid productivity
FAR Northern farmers have been cleared for take off after the Civil Aviation Safety Authority relaxed laws around the use of drones.
From September 29, drones, or remotely piloted aircraft, weighing less than 2kg will not require an operator’s certificate or a remote pilot licence.
The ruling opens the technology to producers such as Robert Drury, who has been working with Cairns-based company Droner.
The Ravenshoe dairy farmer initially hired the company for a real estate photoshoot and was so impressed by drones’ capabilities, he is organising a field day for his fellow farmers.
“We can manage properties better if we can see paddocks and waters (dams) more clearly, therefore I see a future for drones on livestock farms,” Mr Drury said.
“I can also see a future for cropping people ... from the air you can see parts of the crop that aren’t doing so well, you can manage them better if you’re aware of it.”
Mr Drury has four farms covering about 365ha and believes the technology could save him time and money. “We’d have 100 paddocks and every paddock has a water in them, so it would probably take a few hours to get around,” he said.
“If we had a drone or some means of doing waters without having to go around it would be a big saving.”
Droner owner Tom Watson said drones were becoming more affordable, with a decent unit costing less than $2000 plus mapping software.
“There’s been a lot of negativity about the new rules but with a proper education and the right location, they can have great benefits for people, particularly farmers,” he said.
Droner has a pilot based on the Tablelands who has been experimenting with NDVI (Normalised Difference Vegetation Index) cameras and is offering training, and free trials to people keen to take advantage of the CASA ruling.
“NDVI cameras are able to see what the normal eye can’t and can show a weakened area better than what a normal photo can,” Mr Watson said.
“While these cameras are a bit more expensive, you get more value out of the data.”
Tom Watson with his DJI Phantom sub 2kg drone that will be affected by the new CASA regulations. Watson, a licenced commercial pilot, runs Droner