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View From the Hill: Eyes in the Sky

By Lance Waybright, National Grange Intern (View From The Hill Blog 2/15/13)

  FEBRUARY 15, 2013 --

In the news there’s been much said about President Obama’s executive order to use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), better known as drones, to kill extremists. Although the topic has generated much in the way of fierce discussion between lawmakers and other political-junkies, little has been mentioned about the technology behind these UAVs.

In the past, the U.S. military has made use of UAVs for the purpose of spying on “less than inviting” residents of the Middle East. Today, UAVs are capable of more than flying around in dangerous territory with little cameras attached; UAVs can carry out lethal operations that are deemed too dangerous for soldiers to be involved. What benefits do these war-machines prove to you in Emporia, Kansas?

Believe it or not, UAVs may find plenty of work in the states. The vice-president of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems International (UAVSI) suspects that UAVs could be seen as useful in the agriculture industry. The UAVs could be guided over cropland, returning inferred images of the progression of crop growth, improperly drained areas, and identify areas where pesticide / herbicide coverage is needed. Crop growers have successfully acclimated field machinery with GPS systems and in a few cases automated steering has been implemented. Currently, UAVs are used as a militaristic tool but other viable applications are coming about quickly.

The Federal Aviation Administration currently condones any usage of UAVs in our nation’s airspace, but similar to the GPS and other technologies, what’s available to a small few will eventually become mainstream. With a UAV inspecting your field from above what other aspects of a farm could be replaced with this type of futuristic technology? Americans will have to wait and see how D.C. will react to the Obama Administration’s use of UAVs as lethal machines, so we will have to wait to see when the UAVs are used in agriculture. In the future, Sunday afternoon drives with the wife to see the how the crops are doing made be done by remote from your sofa. 

- Lance Waybright
National Grange Intern

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