Drones for Agriculture

The drone technology, as a whole, it can be at the very basic level, can be used to scout fields, to know where the problems are, but then it is a fundamental tool to help with precision agriculture, precision weed management.

That was one of my chores with my parents, is to go weed the garden with a hoe, and so now, I’m talking about, well, I’m not going to send a hoe out there. I’m going to fly out there with my drone and I’m going to take care of the weeds that way.

If I knew all the bad spots in my field, I could do a bunch of drones, and do a bunch of small drones to go and attack those areas with whatever type of chemical I want to have, what kind of pesticide or fungicide I need.

I am the corn breeder for the state of Texas, well, one of two corn breeders for the state of Texas but I handle most of the state, the majority of the land mass, and our goal is really to breed better crops and to help farmers get better economic value from whatever they plant.

Then we work with other people to help assemble the images and do 3-D reconstructions of those plants

and what we know is that certain plant shapes and certain plant growth habits lead to higher yield and so we can estimate earlier in the season which of those plants is going to have that better yield.

I can see the value of this tool in any country even if you have small areas. These drones can bring in a lot of value in getting an overall kind of bird’s eye view of field problems whether it’s weeds, disease or insects.

On a very basic level, I don’t think a lot of training is required. All you need is probably a smart phone and in a lot of the developing countries, people already have access to smart phones.

Probably in the next five or ten years, you’re going to see very easy to use software packages where a farmer or a researcher in Africa or Asia or, you know, South America can take these tools and basically get high quality data they can use for plant breeding or making decisions on when they can spray their crop.