Canton soybean farmer Danny Murphy has embraced technology. That includes GPS guidance for his tractors and instant readings when he’s harvesting. Now, he’s hearing about the benefits of an extra set of eyes, in the form of a drone.
“A quick look at it and maybe be able to check your whole farm in an afternoon instead of spending days walking around and looking at it,” explained Murphy.
But a quick YouTube search shows there’s already farmers pushing the limits and experimenting.
“For most farmers, they’re hesitant to put that kind of investment in the air not knowing what the regulations might come by,” described Murphy. “And also what benefit, what kind of return you’d get by using that drone.”
Like Murphy, most Mississippi farmers are playing the waiting game for more research. They’re also waiting on commercial use FAA regulations. Those are expected to be released as early as next year.
Dennis Lott is the director for Hinds Community College’s unmanned aircraft systems program. Before he entered academics, he was a Mississippi Delta crop duster. So, he knows how the technology can make the operations more efficient.
“Tells the farmer more what his crop health is than if he were standing there holding the plant in his hand and looking at it,” said Lott.
A drone like this would cost between $3,000 and $12,000. That’s much less than what a farmer would pay for a crop duster to fly overhead.
“You can map a section of land, about 640 acres of land, in under an hour with this fixed wing aircraft that gives you precision data like farmers never had before,” described Lott.
Dennis Lott said that research has shown agriculture is estimated to account for 80 percent of the commercial use for drones.
“I think for the most part it’s kind of a novelty now but there’s a huge potential,” added Murphy.