Drones have the potential to revolutionize agriculture in Arkansas, but the nature of that revolution remains unclear, reports Jan Cottingham on ArkansasBusiness.com.
The aviation technology is in its infancy, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s delay in developing final rules regarding the piloting of drones — also known as unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) — has delayed adoption of the technology. But the economic impact of the agricultural use of drones appears as vast as their uses.
Up to 80% of the entire commercial market for drones could be dedicated to agriculture, according to a recent Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Research report. The report estimated the agricultural drone market at $2 billion in 2015. This market has the potential to create 100,000 jobs in the U.S. alone and $82 billion in economic activity between 2015 and 2025, the report said.
Agriculture in Arkansas is a $16 billion business, one-quarter of the state’s economy, the Arkansas Farm Bureau says.
“As far as Arkansas goes, it could make a huge difference over in eastern Arkansas,” Rusty Rumley said of drone use. For row crops — soybeans, corn, cotton — “that right there is where I’ve been hearing a lot of the excitement,” said Rumley, a staff member of the National Agricultural Law Center at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
Drone use also could have a big impact in forestry, a $3.2 billion business in Arkansas.