Jennifer Campbell recently wrote a series of stories about unmanned aerial systems. They're also called drones. You can make a case for using the word drone because this is a positive use for the technology, or not using it to avoid connotation with military images.
Either way, it's cool to see your fields in real time and also capture photo images, either regular or infra-red, from a device flying up to 400 feet and perhaps up to 0.6 miles away, depending on which model you buy. The question is, what will you do with the data when it lands?
Some things are obvious. Chris Campbell knows it would be helpful to located tile lines if you fly on the right day. A.J. Booher, Warren County, says you can get systems that guarantee you will get images on a cloud-free day. Studying those images can help you determine if the crop is normal. Or do some areas have something going on that might be a problem? Once you know that, you can ground truth those areas to determine exactly why they're not performing as well as the rest of the field.
A commercial company, MyAgCentral, believes they have the best solution for handling data for aerial agronomic imagery. They call it an 'end-to-end' agronomic solution.
A division of DN2K, the company recently announced cloud-based solutions which will allow growers to leverage images they get form UAV systems.
The company partners with AgEagle which makes a UAV unit to take the pictures. Then they partner with Prime Meridian which supplies advanced imagery services and complete precision ag solutions. The company also partners with APIS to conduct education and training for those wanting to use UAVs for crop scouting purposes.
Chad Colby, a UAV enthusiast in Illinois, reminds farmers that using a UAV to charge someone else for services is currently illegal according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA says they hope to have new regulations in place for these systems and how they can be used legally in the air space by 2015.