Wa­ter for Profit sem­i­nars

Tasmanian Country - - NEWS - KAROLIN MACGRE­GOR

SELF-CON­FESSED nerd and Der­went Valley farmer Will Bignell says drone tech­nol­ogy does have a role to play in to­day’s farm­ing sys­tems.

Mr Bignell was a guest speaker at last week’s Wa­ter For Profit event at Long­ford.

He told farm­ers he had al­ways been in­ter­ested in fly­ing tech­nol­ogy and started out with ra­dio-con­trolled planes, which he would crash on a regular ba­sis.

A pas­sion for data and an­a­lyt­ics meant that drone tech­nol­ogy was al­ways some­thing Mr Bignell was go­ing to be fas­ci­nated with.

He built his first drone us­ing ba­sic ma­te­ri­als which in­cluded a tup­per­ware con­tainer, and from there his in­ter­est in drones took off.

Mr Bignell said 2011 “re­ally marked the bat­tle of the nerd drones”.

“Back then I could build a drone for $200 and use it to look at a poppy crop and see any prob­lems, and just take a heap of photos and have a good time,” he said.

Mr Bignell said that in 2015 the con­sumer drone boom started and they were the must-have item.

While there are now a huge range of drones avail­able, at much more com­pet­i­tive prices, Mr Bignell said they were not all suit­able for use in farm­ing sys­tems.

He said it was im­por­tant to con­sider a number of fac­tors be­fore pur­chas­ing a drone, in­clud­ing what sort of weather con­di­tions it will be able to han­dle, the types of ar­eas it will be fly­ing in, pay­load and what the farmer ac­tu­ally wants to do with it.

Drones can gen­er­ally be used for in­spec­tion-type work such as check­ing farm equip­ment, stock or crops, or more de­tailed data col­lec­tion and pre­ci­sion agri­cul­ture.

Mr Bignell said the data they col­lect can be very use­ful, but ac­cu­racy was cru­cial.

One of the best uses of drone tech­nol­ogy is for drainage sim­u­la­tion.

Mr Bignell said drone maps can al­low farm­ers to trial dif­fer­ent drainage sce­nar­ios be­fore they even get out any ma­chin­ery.

Drones can also be used to check on live­stock and move them in some sit­u­a­tions.

But Mr Bignell warned that drones should be used to en­hance an op­er­a­tion, not to run it.

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