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U.S. farmers seek to use UAVs to monitor fields

June 11, 2014  By The Associated Press

June 11, 2014, Moultrie, Ga. - Aerial drones, a technology perhaps best known for helping hunt terrorists on the other side of the globe, may soon begin helping U.S. farmers monitor what's happening in their fields.

In Georgia, a group of state and federal officials — along with
members of industry and academia — has been working since 2009 to
develop a drone that can save a farmer's time and resources during the
growing season.

The public got its first
glimpse of the group's drone at a flight demonstration last month at a
research farm in Moultrie, Georgia.

By deploying a UAV with a multi-spectral
camera to survey crops, farmers could spot water and nutrition issues,
insect infestations and fungal infections.


"The UAV saves a
tremendous amount of time," said Eric Corban, founder and chief
technology officer for Guided Systems Technologies Inc., a Stockbridge,
Georgia, company that helped develop the software. "Traditionally you
would walk the field, and you would only get a small portion of the
field sample. The UAV can do it in a fraction of that time and cover the
entire field."

Although the technology is only in the
testing phase, commercial use could begin once the Federal Aviation
Administration issues rules.

"We're working very close
with the FAA," said Steve Justice, director of the Georgia Center of
Innovation for Aerospace. "They have direction from the Congress to
issue rules for the use of unmanned aircraft systems by the fall of

Once those rules are in place, the
Georgia group believes its partnership will be at the forefront of the
U.S. commercial market.

"I think Georgia has a very
unique aspect here," said Chad Dennis, the program's director for the
Georgia Centers of Innovation. "We're probably the first state to put
all the pieces of the puzzle together."

Agriculture has had a rich history of
technology advances but one industry veteran thinks the use of farm
drones may top the list. Don Koehler, executive director of the Georgia
Peanut Commission, has been with the agency for nearly three decades.

"I've seen us go from two-row
planting equipment and harvesting, and everything, to really big
equipment," Koehler said. "I've seen a lot that's gone on. I've seen
yields go up. But in that 28 years, I don't think I've seen what I'll
see in the next eight years."


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