UAV Systems: Don’t Call ‘Em Drones

UAV Field Day Shot In a couple of weeks, I will be in Lansing, Michigan to chat with attendees at the Michigan Agri Business Association (MABA) annual conference. The topic, one of the hottest in high technology agriculture, is unmannned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems. While we’ve burned a lot of ink and megabytes covering the UAV movement in agriculture, I’ve sought a lot of counsel from industry friends who are closer to the “frontest front lines” than I am to get some reinforcing data and perspective. Last year was a real turning point for UAVs in agriculture in particular. There were manufacturers displaying UAV technology at the InfoAg Conference in July, and their booths were always buzzing, literally and figuratively.

What statement best describes your attitude and approach to use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) systems?

  • We are very interested in UAVs and anticipate purchasing and experimenting with one in the next six months. (47%, 113 Votes)
  • We are interested in UAVs but do not currently see the value in using them. (24%, 59 Votes)
  • We own and are experimenting with UAVs to determine how they may fit into our operation. (19%, 46 Votes)
  • We are not at all interested in UAV technology. (8%, 20 Votes)
  • (2%, 5 Votes)

Total Voters: 243

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Robert Blair, an Idaho farmer who’s been to Washington DC and back on a number of occasions and spoken to dozens of groups in recent years about UAV systems, says that agriculture is going to be a hot spot for commercial uses of the technology … if we steward the process properly over the next few years. Regulations will becoming from the Federal Aviation Administration related to commercial applications of UAV systems, and despite public concerns about spying, security and privacy, Blair believes that “cooler heads will prevail. But he adds that “agriculture needs to do its part by promoting the use, creating proactive resolutions for organizations, and contacting our federal elected officials.”

A small but meaningful step forward should be the elimination of the term “drones” from our vocabulary when referring to these systems ag. It’s a convenient, one syllable term, but also a media-driven lightning rod that incites all that is negative. UAV systems is a more professional, and frankly accurate description of what we’re doing … using unmanned aircraft as part of a total agronomic system, adding more data, boosting efficiency, and improving decision making.

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3 comments on “UAV Systems: Don’t Call ‘Em Drones

  1. Thanks for reading, and I welcome the feedback. Well, tractors do have the benefit of not being related, in the public and media, to use as a military weapon. It is probably an impossible hill to climb, but the key point is that the professional use of UAV systems in agriculture has the potential to deliver significant benefits in ways that are beneficial to stewardship, accuracy and efficiency. Moving things forward while being saddled with the term “drone” may be an unfortunate weight we have to bear.

  2. I have a background in Radio Control Model Aircraft. I’ve been flying them since 1975. When the military first started to use “RC” aircraft they cloned the “UAV” term. I’ve folled that progress from the beginning.

    Today the newest buzz term is UAS or Unmanned Aerial System. This is the big stuff that the military and government agencies uses. For the rest of us, we will use SUAS or Small Unmanned Aerial System. In my opinion, the SUSA and UAS is a better fit as it truly is a “system” of components being used. I try to avoid the “D” word at all costs when talking about SUAS.

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