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Is 2015 The Breakout Year For Unmanned Aerial Systems?

10 Sep 2023

Why is that nearly every farm magazine you read today the hot trending topic is Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). The answer is simple. Over the foreseeable future the use of UAS is going to be a great addition to our farming operations. Let me explain how 2015 could be the breakout year for this technology.

As I have traveled discussing use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) in agriculture, I always share the road of technology that we have all been down the last 20 to 30 years. Beyond the technology, the most precious resource a farmer has each day is his or her labor. Using all the resources ranging from smart phones, tablets, AMS systems, etc. make each day productive. UAV is just that, a soon to be great new tool in the farmers toolbox.

What Is New In 2015

Regulation. The Federal Aviation Administration is getting closer to policy on commercial regulation on UAV. It’s not nearly fast enough for some, but it’s moving in the right direction. Learn more about safe operation and the latest news at:

Technology. Wow is really all I can say. The new sensors and workflow for the data is coming online in 2015 and is going to be the game changer. In the past we could get great images of plant health, but could not make this into practical usable data. But for 2015, it will be possible to fly a corn field and get the images to review, in less than 30 minutes, right on your tablet or smart phone.

Cameras. I’m looking forward to testing is the MicaSense ( camera system. It’s designed to be used in small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and features multi-band data for agricultural remote sensing applications. The new cameras are much more advanced with great built-in features like: Wi-Fi, Gobal shutter, Geotags, SD card storage, and more. Sounds like there is even more in the potential pipeline. Adding thermal would be an excellent tool.

Data Processing. This has been the biggest challenge with UAS technology for a long time. We’ve been able to get imagery beyond visible light for over twenty years, but the turn around time for processing has been the issue. Main growers have been using NDVI imagery for a long time. The stumbling block was the several days it took to get useable data back—often too late to aid in decisions. The company Drone Deploy ( has developed a way to process this imagery data in the “cloud.” Having this process automated could be the game changing move the industry needed. By using cellular technology, as the UAV flies its mission the data is pushed to the cloud and is immediately processed.

Here are few good buying tips before you buy a UAS:

  • Know the laws—federal and local
  • Understand these are not toys.
  • Start with something small and practice, practice, practice. (A good starter system would be something similar to the Phantom – 
  • Training. If possible join the local flying club or fly with someone with some experience to help you get started. 

Most importantly, during any flight you need to understand you are responsible for the actions of the UAV. As a hobby flier, each flight should include a Risk Assessment. This is a quick review of the possible issues you may come across.

The number one question I get from operators looking at investing in a UAV is, “What can I actually do with it?” Here are some great tips*:

Do –

  • Do fly a model aircraft/UAS at the local model aircraft club
  • Do take lessons and learn to fly safely
  • Do contact the airport or control tower when flying within five miles of an airport
  • Do fly a model aircraft for personal enjoyment

Don't –

  • Don't fly near manned aircrafts
  • Don't fly beyond the line of sight of the operator
  • Don't fly an aircraft weighing more than 55 lbs unless it's certified by an aeromodeling community-based organization
  • Don't fly contrary to your aeromodeling community-based safety guidelines
  • Don't fly model aircraft for payment or commercial purposes



By Chad E. Colby  Twitter: @TheChadColby

Article written by Chad E. Colby Twitter: @TheChadColby


Farmers Hot Line is part of the Catalyst Communications Network publication family.