Drones give birds-eye view of crops

Rebecca TriggerThe West Australian

Drones are taking a bird's eye view of WA crops as part of trials by the Mingenew Irwin Group looking at their use in agriculture.

Trials of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, the industry-preferred term for the drones, have been running since the start of this year's season, agronomist and founder of New Era Ag Tech Warren Abrams said.

The tiny devices are being used to survey agricultural land, taking snapshots of soil structure, erosion, weed spread and disease.

The MIG trials use traditional photography but multispectral imaging is not far off, Mr Abrams said.

They are also working with a major tractor company, using the drones to fly ahead, identify weeds or disease in the field, and relay the information back to a computer which directs the tractor where to spray.

"The future of this is that not every farmer will have one but each farmer group or consultant will end up having one," Mr Abrams said.

"At the moment, if you go through a paddock of 1000ha and you drive into that paddock 10 times you see less than one per cent.

"With these you are looking at the whole paddock."

Under current regulations, the 80cm diameter carbon fibre drones can only fly to 400ft and all flights have to be registered with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

"In the USA there are about 22,000 of these flying at any one time, there's no licensing requirements, and it's got to the stage you've got cameras filming all sorts of people and doing all sorts of stupid things," Mr Abrams said.

The group will be demonstrating the devices at a number of field days around the State.

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