Everyone is getting into the drone act. Last week Google announced it was testing a drone for delivering products, and it conducted a successful test of the product in Australia. A direct slam at Amazon, which announced it was testing a similar idea earlier this year, the concept would save money and get you products faster. Of course, the argument could be made that the drone might get lost in the country.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration continues to be the stonewall that stops this technology from moving forward. In July, the agency issued even tougher prohibitions against ag use until it clarifies rules later next year. It's a setback for research too and yet I'm seeing more drone-generated video that's fun to watch and quite stunning too.
FAA still says it'll rule later this year, but there's still going to be a comment period and a final rule creation period, so don't hold your breath.
Earlier this year I heard Kevin Price speak about drones - or unmanned aerial vehicles (more on that in a moment) - and he is waiting for the market to open too. In the meantime he advises farmers to spend some time with flight simulator software. Practice and improve your technique. I've discussed this before but it's time you did it. We're seeing more interest in drones.
In fact, I know some farmers visited the Farm Progress Show hospitality tent and asked if there were drone demos. There aren't but as soon as they're legal you can bet there will be. It would be fun to watch as it was a couple months ago at the Precision Aerial Ag Show. You want to see these in action, and so do I.
Last week at the Farm Progress Show, I watched as Kansas producer Lon Frahm - Frahm Family Farms - showed visitors drone views of his equipment at work. It was mesmerizing. He has them posted on his public Facebook page if you want to have a look.
And progress is being made. Last week the New York Times reported that NASA was working on an air traffic control system for drones that would track them when they flew - up to 500 feet (about 100 feet above what farmers figure they do under temporary rules. The sophisticated system will "see" drones and traffic control will be managed remotely, there won't be a new set of towers built, but it will provide some order for use of the handy aircraft when the FAA gets moving.
Drones or UAVs
I'm about to give up. I have joked that drones were military vehicles designed to kill someone remotely, but producers call them drones rather than unmanned aerial vehicles. So I think I'll cave and go with drones, it's easier to remember. In a 2013 blog by the American Civil Liberties Union, they discussed this very issue and ruled on the side of using drones.
It's not an easy subject, but I have to admit drone rolls more easily off the tongue than UAV. So drone it is!