Farm­ers’ eyes in the sky aid pro­duc­tiv­ity

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - LOOKING BACK - Kim Vla­sic

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.”

Pic­ture: TROY SNOOK

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

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