Down on the farm with drones

Patrick_Egan3There are bushels of folks out there now spending money and putting time in finding niches for unmanned systems that already exist. You may be saying, isn’t that what we should be doing? Possibly, but first we have to understand that the idea of carrying sensors on aircraft is not revolutionary, it has been going on for years. Drones too, but we are supposed to act like it doesn’t happen because FAA policy says so.

At the lower end of the data collection spectrum of course is photography. Pretty pictures may be enough to satisfy some. However, others may need just a little more data to make all of the regulatory hassle and cash outlay worthwhile. Let’s use the pick-up truck analogy that has been bandied about. Sure you can haul your roller-skates, but does the added expense and cost to operate justify the outlay?

The broad brush of application lacks definition and is almost as wild and vague as the general public’s capabilities concept of drones. Yes, they can do a lot of something, but what can they really do, and more important still, what is the value proposition? There is a lot of cheap data, but cheap is not always good if you are the one that has signed up to supply it.

This is where the public drone conversation meshes on both the pro and con side of the issue. Plenty of people mistakenly assume that many of these sensors are revolutionary, and cannot, nor have they ever been flown until the advent of the drone. Not so much, as there are companies that have been doing this type of work for many years, even employing kites and balloons.

Even those who do not possess an advanced degree in Thinkology understand the prima facie value proposition: lessen farm inputs while increasing farm outputs. Still, many for some reason totally disregard the fact that you can hire, or buy a single engine aircraft that affords the capacity of flying almost anywhere in the National Airspace System (NAS). So, for +/- $100 per hour you can fly an array of different sensors completely unfettered by purely arbitrary regulatory criteria.

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