In order to get a bigger picture of their fields and improve efficiency as well as potentially yield an increase in their crops, farmers are beginning to rely on agricultural drones. These drones are used to provide images of fields to a farmer through three different types of views. According to Anderson, from “Relatively cheap drones with advanced sensors and imaging capabilities are giving farmers new ways to increase yields and reduce crop damage,” the first is seeing the crop from a birds’ eye view. This can reveal many issues such as; irrigation problems, soil variation and pest and fungal infestations. The second view uses multispectral images to show an infrared view as well as a visual spectrum view. When you combine the two views the farmer is able to see the differences between healthy and unhealthy plants. This difference is not always clearly visible to the naked eye and can assist the farmer with assessing crop growth and production. Additionally, the drone can survey the crops for the farmer periodically to their liking. From a choice of weekly, daily to each hour, the farmer is able to use this information to show the changes in the crops over time, thus showing where there might be “trouble spots”. By identifying these trouble spots the farmer can attempt to improve crop management and improve the overall production of their crop.
While there are many ways to improve crop growth through the use of agricultural drones, there is also a questionable security aspect. Through the use of drones, farmers are able to monitor and record their crop. If an alternative company starting flying their drones in unregulated areas and surveying their competition it can lead to compromising company secrets. According to Kress Wilhelmy (http://ocj.com/2013/05/drones-can-be-positive-and-negative-for-the-ag-industry/) an agricultural attorney, “It used to be that you as a landowner owned from the air to the heavens, but then we got airplanes and the law changed. Now a person can commit a trespass if a person enters or directs an object such as a drone into the area between the land and a certain level in the sky, but that level has not been clearly defined in the courts.” This allows for a gray area for flying drones over unauthorized areas.
When dealing with agricultural drones, there are also many ethical and social implications. A positive ethical implication is being able to monitor and control the use of pesticides properly. This allows minimum pesticides to be used in order to attempt to reduce the amount of pesticides released into the environment. This helps decrease unnecessary pesticide use that can harm the surrounding environment of the crop production. However, one negative side of this is the unauthorized access drones receive when flying under *500 feet. Unauthorized access to flying freely is allowed if it is under 500 feet. When this is the case and drones can have microphones and camera attached, it creates uncertainty in what’s ethically okay to monitor. There is the potential for privacy to be violated which has caused some opposition towards drones, some people saying that it allows room for spying or stalking of citizens.
There is a lot of room for growth with agricultural drones. With technology constantly improving, imaging of the crops will improve as well. With the data that drones record from the crops the farmers are able to analyze their crops and make educated decisions on how to proceed given the accurate crop information. Software programs for analyzing and correcting crop production have the potential to grow in this market. Imagine a farmer being able to fly a drone over their crops, allowing to accurate identify an issue in specific area, and then take the necessary actions in order to resolve the problem. The farmer is then able to focus more on the big picture of production instead of spending time surveying their crops. The drones allow for real time data to be delivered back to the user to be inspected.