Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or UAVs have traditionally been reserved for those with a defence budget. Increased demand and growth in the number of manufacturers is making the technology more affordable with great potential for agricultural applications.
The uptake of UAV technology in agriculture has been strong in Japan with over 2,000 Yamaha RMAX unmanned helicopters spraying about 2.5 million acres a year, covering 40% of the country’s rice paddies according to Steve Markofski from Yamaha. In countries such as the US and Australia, the implementation of UAVs has been slow primarily due to stringent regulations imposed by the Federation Aviation Administration and Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).
AMC sees many applications for UAVs in Australian agriculture for remote inspections, spray applications, data collection, fire or flood management and water management. Existing technology could be added to UAVs such as photospectrometry, near-infrared spectrometry, UHF/VHF radio controls, GPS/NLIS tag identification and other sensing equipment. Assessments can be made quick, safe and accurate to generate data on yields, livestock location, plant matter, disease, pests, disaster impacts or soil moisture.
Additional applications of UAVs in Australian agriculture continue to expand rapidly under new regulation with aircraft to be used for spraying, frost mitigation, surveys, photography, pest & disease control, environmental monitoring, mapping and precision farming.
A property could effectively be managed by a ‘caretaker UAV’ to assist in data capture and inspection feeding directing back to a management hub. A workforce could be spread between several properties in close proximity and managed from a central location. Predetermined inspection flight plans could save time in attending properties if a UAV could collect the required information to make the relevant management decisions. This would not be a substantial extension to using remote water monitoring with irrigation or using remote telemetry water management in extensive pastoral operations. Mining operations are moving swiftly toward remotely operated equipment to reduce labour requirements and completely remove many safety concerns.
CASA have implemented a range of regulations around the usage of UAVs which somewhat limits the commercial application of technology. The regulations are broad and include many recreational unmanned model aircraft that have no agricultural purpose. CASA’s primary concerns are air safety and privacy hence the regulations to prevent improper use. There have been instances of organisations using UAVs to observe practices on properties without gaining permission and subsequently releasing information publically.
AMC considers the use of UAVs an exciting prospect for intensive and extensive agricultural operations. The opportunity for remote management expansion and the potential time and input savings are substantial. AMC are continually seeking new ways to improve management efficiencies and increase farm productivity. To discuss the application of leading technology in your business, call AMC on +61733079555.