For many years, farming has been the fruit of manual labor. With the advancement of technology in everyday life, this may soon not be the case. Enter agricultural drones. Though drones are often associated with surveillance or warfare, these aerial devices can serve a variety of purposes. In an article in The Boston Globe, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International states that, “agriculture drones are expected to make up 80 percent of the future commercial market.” There is plenty of potential for drones in agriculture, but one aspect, that of Crop Surveillance and Aerial Imaging, stand out far more than others. According to Zareba Systems, “Crop surveillance can give a better perspective of crops to farmers while minimizing the cost of walking the fields or getting an airplane to do fly-over filming.” What this means is that farmers will be able to gather data in an effective and productive manner, that isn’t as prone to variable factors such as human tiredness and error, weather prohibitions and more. For many, the pros of using agricultural drones far outweigh the cons, and that is possibly why the federal regulations in regards to unmanned aerial vehicles were loosened in late 2014.
Drones provide faster monitoring, allowing farmers to quickly identify any crop defects or diseases. They also are useful in terms of the environment, as quicker identification of problems allows for farmers to more effectively treat their crops, using less chemicals and fertilizers.
On the other hand, the uncertainty over rules in regards to drones in the USA creates a conundrum for most farmers. Growers and drone companies are divided over how much flexibility current FAA guidelines give them to use the devices. Furthermore, the expense related to drones is not one to be taken lightly. Drones are expensive to buy, and also require extensive training so that they can be operated in the correct manner. The expensive cost of utilizing more efficient means in farming would definitely favor the rich, giving certain farmers a distinct advantage in their agricultural activities. Finally, a usual concern in terms of technology is that of privacy and the usage of drones in agriculture comes with no exception. Public agencies, like law enforcement, and other governmental agencies are allowed by the FAA to obtain certificates of authorization to use drones in civil airspace. Because of this, people fear that drones will be used to encroach upon their privacy..
Though a lot of agricultural industries have heavily resisted the use of technology in their ways, the benefits of having some allowances in terms of technological cannot be overlooked. Countries like Canada have used drones in agriculture for many years now, with great results. Despite its sophistication in military drone hardware and software, the United States’ commercial drone market lags behind a substantial number of countries across South America, Asia, and Europe. That being said, it is important to consider the concerns of farmers while reevaluating agricultural drone policy. The advancement of technology has allowed for much improvement in various fields – and will hopefully continue to do so – as long as we make informed decisions after carrying out thorough research as a people.
Akshata majored in International Political Economy and English Literature and has a passion for traveling and exploring the world. She loves to write, is interested in entrepreneurship, and hopes to one day start her own business. Occasionally, she writes about not-so-serious stuff and her daily doings on her blog here.