The Maneater

Plant sciences professor discusses drones in future of agriculture

“The future of American farming is going to be multi-faceted,” farmer DeGrandchamp said. “Growers today have to be skilled in engineering, law, HR, small-town politics and now flying robots.”

Professor William Wiebold delivered a speech on the future of drones in agriculture at the Reynolds Alumni Center on Aug. 29.

Professor Wiebold works in the plant sciences department in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. He began the presentation by noting that he believed drones are going to be an important tool in the future of agriculture.

His presentation featured a chart with three various-sized drones. He gave a brief explanation of each device and noted that some were all-purpose “hobbyist” drones, and the fixed-wing drone was dedicated just for agricultural use.

One of the audience members was sophomore Clint Shannon.

“I’m really interested in agriculture and I saw this presentation included drones and obviously that caught my eye,” Shannon said.

Shannon also admitted his first thoughts about drones brought to mind “really cool stuff like delivering packages,” but he was very interested to hear about drones as related to the future of agriculture.

Wiebold stated that a huge selling point of drones was that they allow the farmer to get a better view of their fields. He noted that a farmer gaining the ability to survey their fields regardless of crop height or lack of roads is “an amazing tool.”

Wiebold then showed a picture of his subdivision as seen from a drone. Houses could be clearly seen from the drone’s perspective and backyards appeared in stunning detail, prompting questions about privacy and Federal Aviation Administration regulations.

In regards to drone use, Wiebold had one simple suggestion for farmers.

“Follow the rules,” he said.

Michigan grower Joseph DeGrandchamp has recently begun experimenting with drones in his commercial operations. DeGrandchamp is a blueberry and cranberry grower in South Haven, Michigan. He operates around 240 acres of land.

“We have several machines that assist us in our packing shed,” DeGrandchamp said. “We utilize cell technology for communications, GPS for mapping and rely on accurate weather predictions.”

DeGrandchamp thinks that growers and farmers will embrace drone technology over time because of the “classic Missouri show-me mentality,” he said.

Wiebold expanded on this idea by saying that farming is a community that requires early adopters willing to set an example that then spreads by word of mouth.

“The future of American farming is going to be multi-faceted,” DeGrandchamp said. “Growers today have to be skilled in engineering, law, HR, small-town politics and now flying robots.”

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