In the report, The Economic Impact of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration in the United States, the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International estimates that integrating drones into U.S. airspace could, by the year 2025, create 100,000 new jobs for the U.S. economy. Most of those jobs, they estimate, will be in the agricultural market.
Although U.S. farms are mechanized and extremely productive, they still rely heavily on an age-old practice known as “crop scouting.” In its basic form, crop scouting, or field scouting, is simply observing conditions by traveling around and through a field. This is done so farmers can see how well crops are growing and, when necessary, take corrective action to prevent or mitigate crop damage. The process begins by observing fields before seeding. At this point, farmers are looking for weeds that might impact the growth of crops once their fields have been planted. After planting, ongoing scouting can reveal damage from moisture issues, pest infestations and the effect of fertilizers and pesticide applications.
Scouting is critical to farming because it improves crop yield. It’s also the single most compelling reason that drones will transform the agricultural industry. Viewing crops at 200 feet from a drone has many advantages over walking a field with a note pad. Not only can UAVs provide a comprehensive picture of field conditions, but crop development can also be documented with images and videos from an onboard camera and compared over time.