Pocket Drones, a Trillion Data Points, and Spittin’ Tobacco

Weekend warriors are using drones to impress buddies at the lake, and eight-year-olds can maneuver a tiny craft around siblings sitting at a dinner table, so it’s no surprise that farmers are on the drone bandwagon. As this company says, the new “Pocket Drone Control” tool provides aerial insights to check on weather or pest damage in distant fields, and growers can also decide what fertilizer to apply. Apparently, farmers can make a few swipes on an iPhone or iPad (they just need to be careful they’re not on Tinder), and the pocket drone can cover an 80-acre field in less than 15 minutes.
Another cutting-edge company points out that the current revolution is being fueled not only by advancements in drone platforms, but by improved sensors as well. “Drones are everywhere in the agricultural landscape and are being used to determine plant health, inventory plants, collect farm asset information, assess crop damage, and even determine areas of low soil moisture.” I imagine the upgraded models can also zip off at noon and pick up sandwiches at the Country Vittles store on Main Street. “What! I wanted my BLT on rye not pumpernickel.” Farmers will need to take their leather work gloves off when they use the touch pad to order.
This is certainly an upgrade from the old days. Dad’s crop reports would come from windshield surveys while he drove the country roads or from a friendly neighbor’s not-so-subtle observations. “That corn on your back forty looks burnt and stressed. You might want to give it some attention or you may as well turn those scrawny cattle of yours loose in it.” 
Livestock auctions were “massive databases” back then.
We kids might have some insights after walking soybean fields to pull weeds, but we were focused more on avoiding painful thistles and dirt clods thrown by a cousin eight rows over. Dad considered us unreliable sources: “I never sent you boys to check conditions in the cornfields ‘cause I didn’t know if you were smart enough to find your way out.”

Hundreds of articles and websites could inform us about new tech on the farm, but one more that grabbed my attention has an eerie eye-in-the-sky feel to it. Apparently, this device is designed so that agribusiness can know the details about growers and their cropland. “The GPS on mobile devices allows any user to quickly and easily learn about farm fields and farmers around their current location.”  I’m not sure if it identifies the farmer’s shoe size or favorite pizza yet, but that’s no doubt coming. The company says it offers a “massive database of over 200 trillion data points.” And to think, the old days featured a database made up of the locals gathered at the feed store—usually five or six “drones” in overalls and old Clyde who never passed on anything from his data base without first spittin’ a chunk of Red Man tobacco. But overall, the information was solid, and these drones never needed their batteries recharged–unless you count the free coffee and donuts. 

NOTE:  Check this blog for more links about ag drones and a reflection about being a kid on the farm before drones.

NOTE: Click here for information about CAST’s forthcoming series of issue papers: The Need for Agricultural Innovation to Sustainably Feed the World by 2050

This series looks at specific programs, policies, and techniques that will advance global food security. Topics will include issues in animal agriculture, food science, and crops and soils. Led by teams of experts, the Ag Innovation series focuses on smart science and intelligent innovation—the dramatic changes needed to accelerate productivity in crop and animal systems while reducing negative impacts on the environment. CAST will present the work to policymakers, corporate leaders, government officials, NGOs, students, stakeholder groups, and the general public.

by dan gogerty  (top pic from precisiondrone.jpg, bottom one from web.missouri.edu)

Help Support CAST

Your donation to CAST helps support the CAST mission of communicating science to meet the challenge of producing enough food, fiber and fuel for a growing population. Every gift, no matter the size, is appreciated.