Unmanned aircraft has been cleared for takeoff above the farm fields at Clemson University’s Edisto Research and Education Center in Blackville.
The eyes in the sky will monitor crop health and gather data to improve farming efficiency and productivity by letting growers know precisely when and where to water, fertilize or spray crops. The Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) also quickly spot diseased livestock that require attention.
Joe Mari Maja, a research sensor engineer at the Edisto center, received FAA approval in December to fly a UAV as part of his effort to technologize farming in South Carolina with the use of “intelligent agri-tronics devices.” These sensor technologies can be used on UAVs to collect a wide range of crop data quickly to help farmers improve soil quality and eradicate pests and disease. The UAVs allow for much quicker crop monitoring; a UAV can analyze a 10-acre field in less than five minutes, work that takes a person days or weeks to complete, Maja said.
“I believe the applications for this are just enormous,” said Maja, who has a background in computer engineering. “UAV is a game changer in precision agriculture.”