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By David Knopf/Richmond News
Anyone who’s ridden in a modern tractor, combine or applicator knows that farming has already entered the Space Age.
Satellites and GPS systems tell a farmer where seed, fertilizer and insecticides have been dropped and still need to be, and a digital readout lets an operator know how many bushels of corn or soybeans have been harvested in different parts of a field.
Aside from perennial concerns about the weather and market fluctuations, farming isn’t the hit-or-miss affair it was once was.
But without scouting crops on foot, from the seat of a four-wheeler or an applicator – or hiring a crop duster or other pilot to take photos – how can farmers know where trouble spots are developing?
“It’s a hot topic,” said Kent Shannon, a Missouri Extension natural resources engineer who’ll discuss “The Next High-Tech Tool for Agriculture” in Richmond Feb. 11 at the Annual Soils & Crops Conference. “You see something almost weekly in the news about drones being used for something.”
Because the public now associates the word “drone” with spying and other unsavory uses, the devices are called Unmanned Aircraft Systems, or UASs, in agricultural and Federal Aviation Administration circles.
Use of a UAS in farming – yes, they’re already being used by farmers on a limited scale – is regulated by the FAA. The tipoff is that the A in the acronym stands for “aircraft.”