Drones in Flight at Mid Kansas Cooperative

  • Jul 26, 2018
Drones in Flight at Mid Kansas Cooperative
Think that drones only belong in sci-fi movies? Think again. Drones, even autonomous ones, are not fantasy. In fact, they’re currently being developed for everyday use on farms just like yours, with the goal of saving you time and providing other tangible benefits.
 
A trial is currently underway to demonstrate how autonomous drone technology can be practically integrated into routine farming operations. Mid Kansas Cooperative (MKC) is hosting a drone pilot now through August 10 at three locations: the cooperative’s headquarters in Moundridge, Kansas; at a nearby farm; and at an Answer Plot® location. MKC is partnering with American Robotics, a drone developer specializing in agricultural automation that is supplying the drones, and WinField United to present the trial.
 
“We’re very excited to be involved with the drone pilot,” says Troy Walker, precision ag manager and agronomy field sales manager for MKC. “I believe the pilot will help prove the value of drones, particularly if they are unmanned.” The challenge facing cooperatives, says Walker, is that agricultural use of drones is very labor-intensive. “You can get great imagery and gain insight, but it takes so much time to fly every field and then process the data,” he notes.
 
Helping farmers gain an edge
MKC has a history of advocating for ag technology. In 2017, the cooperative won the Precision Impact Award, which recognizes retailers that are leading the industry in the precision ag products and services they offer to farmers. MKC is committed to helping ensure the success of its farmer-customers by providing them with technology options that can help them achieve their goals without adding hours of work to their day.
 
Walker believes that the drone produced by American Robotics — the company’s fully automated Scout™ drone, which offers high-resolution data and daily health reports and uses proprietary algorithms to identify crop stress — can help farmers achieve more.
 
“Its ability to provide insightful, actionable and timely imagery in a shorter time than other systems is a huge leap forward in drone technology,” says Walker. “It’s just not feasible to fly large numbers of fields and acres with many of the drones that are currently available.”
 
Autonomy is crucial
Walker believes that in order for agriculture to progress, it needs to embrace the use of autonomous drones. “After that happens, many other tools can be developed,” he says. “I’m thinking of things such as drones making targeted herbicide applications on their own. That’s further down the road, but it’s possible if autonomy is achieved.”
 
With continuing low commodity prices, today’s farmers need to make every dollar count. “Farmers realize they can’t just guess and hope that their fertility program is working,” Walker notes. “They know they need to apply their fertility in the right places, and that the whole field probably doesn’t need the same amount of nitrogen. Tech tools allow farmers to reduce some of the risk from their decisions to make sure their investments are going as far as possible in today’s market.”
 
Walker also cites MKC’s adoption of the R7® Field Forecasting Tool as a way the organization is helping farmers gain greater ROI and yield potential by placing inputs wisely. “All of these things help us reduce some of the risk that’s inherent in farming today.”
 
Stay tuned to Answer Tech® for the latest from our experts about the use of autonomous drones on the farm.