Bird's-Eye View

Contributed by Joshua Dean | Fourth Year | Agricultural Communications

Drones are the next form of innovation in precision agriculture. Drones are beginning to take the sky by storm. In addition, they are also becoming cheaper and more accessible to the public. Simultaneously, drones are growing to be more advanced, having improved features as time go on. In the past, drones were primarily used for movies, and they costed a fortune. Only a few people had access to them. With today's gain in popularity, drones perform various tasks for almost any industry, especially agriculture. Now, anyone can own and operate one, especially you. Here are some things to know before you make the leap to purchase a drone.

What are drones?

Drones were initially called Unmanned Aircraft Vehicles (UAVs) and were only used by the military and the cinema industry. Due to the cost of operating complex controllers, the public could not access the technology. Today, drone technology is accessible to everyone. Drones do not require a skilled operator to be present. They are now cheaper, due to commercial production. Drones range in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some can reach over hundreds of miles in flight-time, while others can perform for 15 minutes in the sky. Drones are operated remotely, allowing the device to reach various places. The operator is now given simple to use and user-friendly controllers.

Agriculture & drones.

There are almost 8 billion people on earth, and around 700 million are undernourished. When it comes to feeding so many people on the planet, farmers need any help they can get. Drones can help them through a variety of functions. Drones can help farmers get a birds-eye view of their land, which helps to detect any deviation within the crop and how to manage particular issues. Drones can also see things that the human eye cannot detect. Some of these drones are outfitted with special lenses that capture different colors. The data captured from this special feature can help detect nutrient deficiency, presence of particular pests, or an instant view of the land. Farmers can use the data to make precise decisions and plans of action, allowing fewer resources to be used, increasing yields, and sustainably feeding a greater amount of the population

Agricultural communication student experience.

Using drones at Cal Poly allows students to practice the university's "Learn By Doing" motto. Drones do not just capture stunning photography, they become a tool for everyday work. They provide amazing shots that can go into all scopes of media. To make a return on drone projects, you need to obtain a Part 107 license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Once I got my license, I got paid to have fun and practice my hobby. There have been times where I get to walk out to a section of land to take quick photos to relay instant information about a plot of land. There is also a sense of meditation when flying. When I need to monitor a section of land, I can just send the drone out, which save me time when completing other tasks.

Should you buy a drone right now?

There is no definitive answer if you should or should not buy a drone. Everyone has diverse needs and professional desires. If interested, you should purchase a highly advanced technological device that can be used as a tool to develop skills. Ownership of a drone can provide you with professional leverage, as they offer a unique perspective with their long reach aerial shots.

How can you get started?

Anyone can purchase a drone, but it can be expensive. You need to ask yourself a few questions before making the investment.

  • Do I have the funds to make this purchase?

  • Will it serve a significant tool for me?

  • What will I use it for and how can it help me in the work I am doing?

  • What is the legality of owning a drone?

Another important thing to consider is that anything over 250 grams requires you to register your drone on the FAA website. The FAA wants to have documentation in case something goes wrong, like a drone flying into an airplane (which has happened).

Considering these questions and forming a plan of usage will ensure that your investment has the potential to be successful. If you found that your answers to the above questions were meaningful then a drone might just be the tool for you. If so, let me be the first to say, congratulations and safe flying.