Agricultural use of UAS
This paper will look at the agricultural use of UAS and the benefits these systems can provide to this industry as well as the roadblocks and hurdles to their use. “Traditional agriculture practices treat entire fields as single management units. A farmer applies seed, fertilizer, and pesticides at the same rate for an entire field.” (Campbell, 2007, p. 482) While conditions can vary greatly within a single field farmers continue these practices because of the lack of information to do it differently. Agricultural UAS will provide this information to even the smallest farming operation and allow smarter and more environmentally friendly precision agriculture practices to be used. “The practice of precision agriculture is based on use of agricultural equipment with GPS to determine accurate position, multi-spectral imaging current information on crop conditions, and agricultural machinery designed to employ varying rates of application and even to sense field conditions on the spot.” (Campbell, 2007, p. 482) Much of the agricultural machinery used to provide precision and varying rates of application as stated in the previous quote will be UAVs. Different UAV systems will be looked at for their suitability for use in this field as well as what sensors and payloads will be used. Various aspects of agricultural UAS use will looked at such as: integration of UAS into the NAS and how to use these systems in the interim, what UAS systems will be most suitable for these types of applications, how these systems will meet FAA regulations, the history and current development of agricultural UAS, and finally the comparison of using manned systems versus unmanned systems for these applications.
Many areas of in this country as well around the world are facing severe droughts and economic hardship for farmers. UAS have the potential to alleviate many of these problems through more efficient application of watering, fertilizing, and pesticide spraying but their use is currently very limited due to strict FAA regulations limiting the use of UAS in the NAS. UAVs were originally made for the dull, dirty, and dangerous jobs which many agricultural applications fall under. Crop dusting and other chemical spraying such as fertilizer can be very harmful to the health of manned aircraft pilots. UAVs can eliminate many of these issues and prevent illness and potential death in manned pilots. UAVs provide relatively cheap imaging capability that was previously only available on more expensive and limited means such as satellites and manned aircraft. Many small farmers would not have access to this information because more traditional means would be outside their budget or there would not be sufficient availability of these assets due to high demand. This obstacle needs to be overcome to allow these systems to be used and their benefits to be realized. We will take a look at the types of UAVs available and...