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.
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.