Adapting Drone Technology for California Ag

Taylor Hillman Specialty Crops, Technology, Tree, nut & vine crops

Larger mapping drone
The way the majority of drone technology is being used in agriculture today isn’t that beneficial to California agriculture. The industry is trying to develop technologies to use with drones to make the flying tools more valuable to the state’s producers.

Adapting Drone Technology for California Ag

Variable Rate Technology

All Drone Solutions Owner Mark Hull says most drone use in agriculture so far is used on massive farms with purposes California growers don’t have much need for. “If you look into drones and agriculture, probably the biggest use you will see is called variable rate technology,” Hull says. “The basic idea is you fly over a big patch of corn or soybeans. You look at where the crop is dead and alive or maybe just doing okay. You have large applicators that drive along and spray and they have variable rates. They can apply zero percent, 100 percent and maybe 50 and 25 percent. You need maps and data like this from satellite, manned aircraft or drones to do that in places like the Midwest.”

Making it Work for California

Hull has been working with researchers to make drones more valuable to California’s agriculture industry. He says more detailed imagery is the key as the technology can help growers know if certain plants are stressed before a person can see it. “We don’t do much variable rate spraying in California and have a lot of permanent crops,” Hull says. “With permanent crops, we aren’t looking for any of them that are dead. Theses growers already know where dead trees are or they’re missing trees. What we want to do is determine the health difference from tree-to-tree in a way you can’t see with the human eye. That is where the near-infrared and thermal technologies come in. We are trying to take the drone technology and really push it towards the California use.”