Aerial vehicles take off

Up and away: Glenn Fitzgerald (left) and Russel Argall show UAV at the Birchip Cropping Field Day.

RESEARCHERS say unmanned aerial vehicles have developed to a point where they could be commercially viable in agriculture.

Farmers are unlikely to rush out and buy a remote-controlled plane or helicopter in large numbers, but Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries senior scientist Glenn Fitzgerald said crop consultants and agronomists would soon be able to use the technology to provide an extra service to clients.

Dr Fitzgerald said the scientific community had been working on remote sensing systems for more than 30 years, since the advent of satellites.

As well as refining the technology, they have focused on making it practical for agricultural research and farm management.

“We’ve developed a lot of ways to combine imagery and data into something useful for the farmer,” he said.

“We’re at the point of being able to bring together the research and technology to produce a map of nitrogen stress, water stress, and detect pests, diseases and weeds.

“It’s very close to someone making a business out of it.”

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