A drone, an unmanned aerial vehicle, is an aircraft without a human pilot aboard. This may sound like something straight out of a SiFi movie but by no means is it new technology.
It appears the drones time has arrived, thanks to the latest innovations in GPS mapping which is helping farmers achieve more precise agriculture, tightened profit margins, more efficient operations, and with greater ease than ever before.
The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the trade group that represents producers and users of drones and other robotic equipment, expects that 80% of the commercial market for drones will eventually be for agricultural uses.
Farmers are certainly recognising the benefits that this technology brings; namely:
• Surveillance of crops,
• Land and boundaries can be carried out quickly and efficiently,
• Data collected by drones can be used to inform farmer’s decisions in crop management,
• Some drones can be used to precision drop fertiliser.
In addition to being used for precision farming, drones have become a highly effective marketing tool for the sale of agricultural land.
Traditionally, potential buyers had to rely on maps and navigating the land by vehicle or foot. The first step to streamlining this process was Google Maps, as satellite images became available online resulting in a fairly accurate, if limited, aerial view of the farm.
Now, thanks to drones, surveyors and potential buyers can get quality images of previously inaccessible areas, enabling the identification of boundaries, water sources, crop health, drainage and more. The seller can also showcase guest-houses, hunting lodges, hiking trails and other features.
With great power, comes great responsibility; it’s important to note that there are regulations associated with flying drones, and it’s beneficial to better understand some of them:
• One should not fly a drone further than 500 metres away horizontally or 400 feet above oneself
• The drone must not weigh more than 20 kg. One has to be able to see it at all times, to ensure it's being flown safely and legally
• One should be cautious when flying a drone fitted with a camera within 50 metres in any direction of any person, vehicle, building or structure
• Flying within 150 metres of congested areas or large gatherings such as sports events or concerts is not permitted
Farmers looking to sell land should seriously consider making use of a drone, it presents the property in an entirely new light thanks to crisp image quality.