The data is processed into image recognition computer algorithms that can recognize features as precise as individual weeds and tie them to GPS coordinates.
By allowing farmers with large acreage to know precisely where the weeds are, they believe farmers can save up to 80 percent per acre on herbicide-based weed suppression.
They have tested their product primarily with a farmer whose dryland operation in northern Montana is nearly the size of Manhattan Island.
“He simply doesn’t have the ability to drive around and look,” McKinnon said. “By the time he got done, the weeds would be taking over his crop.”
The greatest hurdle to InventWorks and Boulder Labs launching their venture is the Federal Aviation Administration, which is under a congressional mandate to incorporate drones into the national airspace by Sept. 30, 2015.
There is a long list of business interests eager to see the FAA finalize a regulatory structure. According to the Association for Unmanned Vehicles International, an Arlington, Va.-based trade group, the first three years of drones’ introduction into the national air space would see $13.6 billion in economic activity and 34,000 new manufacturing jobs. The FAA has estimated up to 10,000 drones could be airborne in the U.S. within five years.
Once the FAA green-lights their broader commercial use, drones could become commonplace over large farms.
“Absolutely, agricultural applications are at the top of the list of activities or applications that could immediately benefit from a change in the regulatory process – in part because it’s such an obvious application,” said Brian Argrow, cofounder of the Research and Engineering Center for Unmanned Vehicles at the University of Colorado.<< previous 1 2 3 next >>