An eye in the sky: Using drone technology in agriculture

An eye in the sky: Using drone technology in agriculture

Drones offer promising technology for producers to monitor landscapes, plants and animals to better develop management practices and tools.

Since 2016, a team of land-grant university researchers and educators has worked to increase adoption of drones for remote sensing and precision management in agriculture and natural resources. With a diverse group of experts and members in multiple states, the team can test drones in a wide variety of real-world agriculture situations. Previously, single-field research was conducted on a specific crop or stressor, sharing information, equipment and resources. This project won the 2022 National Excellence Multistate Research Award for their outstanding collaboration and impacts.

Researchers are improving drone sensing and developing enhanced drone-based systems. The project continues to identify the most reliable, cost-effective and user-friendly drone platforms and sensors for monitoring and managing stressors. Detailed protocols were developed for scouting pest issues, monitoring plant water stress and targeting irrigation. Drones are also screening plants more efficiently and helping identify superior lines for crop breeding programs. Extension workshops, programs and materials helped educate producers and this research provided a vast collection of digital resources including websites, videos, datasets, peer-reviewed publications and articles in industry magazines and the popular press.

Research and Extension for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Applications in U.S. Agriculture and Natural Resources is supported in part by the Hatch Multistate Research Fund administered by USDA-NIFA and by grants to participating institutions: Auburn University, University of Arkansas, Arkansas Cooperative Extension, Clemson University, Cornell University, University of Florida, University of Georgia, University of Illinois, University of Kentucky,Louisiana State University, Mississippi State University, Montana State University, North Carolina State University, North Carolina Cooperative Extension, North Dakota Cooperative Extension, The Ohio State University, Purdue University, Rutgers University, Stephen F. Austin State University, University of Tennessee, Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and Washington State University. In 2021, project funding was renewed through 2026.

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