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This Mystery Makes the Case For UAV Scouting

This Mystery Makes the Case For UAV Scouting
Strange pattern appears for second year in a row in cornfield.

Walking through the field last summer every once in a while you would come across a couple rows which were shorter and definitely more yellow than the rows next to them. You would count over so many rows – maybe you would find more yellow rows – maybe not.

There didn't seem to be a rhyme or reason to the pattern. It didn't match planter rows or nitrogen application rows, and it didn't even always run the same direction. Sometimes it angled across the field.

Related: Groups Ask for Faster Rulemaking on UAS Use

Strange pattern: Walking the field it looked simple – two rows every so often were short and yellow. That was until you walked each direction and found there was no consistent pattern to see.

The really weird part is that Nate Linder, who farms the field in northern Tippecanoe County, says it has appeared now for the second year in a row. He has only farmed the field for two years, and isn't sure of the field's history.

Don't get too wrapped up in this mystery. You are not going to get an answer, at least not now.

This field does, however, make a great case for the value of unmanned aerial vehicles – what some people call drones. Whether it's a $1,000 model or a $50,000 model, using one to get a picture of the field while the symptoms were showing on that mid-July day would have been invaluable. It could have helped highlight exactly what the pattern looked like from a birds-eye view. Instead, just walking the field, the pattern was too irregular to pick up.

Since ag retailers aren't legally able to charge for services such as scouting from drones, and since the FAA hasn't established rules for flying UAVs over farm fields, they are rather hard to find to use on a moment's notice.

Related: Transportation Board Sides with FAA on UAV Ruling

Several businesses are looking at them and testing them, and some farmers have them. Unfortunately there wasn't one available when a picture of this field might have been worth a thousand words.

Is the mystery doomed to last forever? Probably not. When it goes to corn again, don't be surprised if we don't find a way to help Linder get a UAV flying over the field to see if the pattern is still there.

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