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New High-Flying Drones Changing the Way Farm Land is Bought and Managed

new high-flying drones changing the way farm land is bought and managed

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Published date:

June 07, 2016

Last updated date:

June 07, 2016

By Manny Manriquez

by Mark Bingaman Imagine the day when you can sit at your computer in Tennessee or Vermont or Montana or wherever and search for available farmland for sale. What? You can do that now, you say? Well what if you could also access imagery that provides a view of that land from a couple of miles in the sky but also zooms in to see the seeds adorning a single plant? And what if that imagery was accompanied by a good amount of extrapolated data that would allow you to estimate the past and future productivity of those fields? Sort of makes you want to go buy some farmland for sale right now, doesn't it? A new type of super-high-flying drone technology will soon enable farmers to make better decisions on land and crop management, and provide anyone searching for U.S. farmland for sale reams of new data upon which to base a purchase decision. The technology should help farmers of all types realize more crop productivity and potentially make an investment in farmland more economical and lucrative for land buyers and producers. The drone, which will test precision agriculture methods, made its first flight in May of 2016 above North Dakota, and is slated to spend all summer testing procedures and photographing farmland in that state. Officials intend to learn whether this type of drone photography provides better results than satellite imagery or that from other forms or aerial photography. Manufactured in Israel, the Elbit Systems Hermes 450 aircraft is 20-feet long with a wingspan of 35 feet, can fly for 20 hours, snaps pictures from an altitude as high as 8,000 feet, and can capture images of a swath of farmland ranging from 4 miles wide to 40 miles long. But that doesn't stop it from also taking intensely close photographs of small parcels of land. According to a story by the Associated Press, officials also expect it to show them images of things as small as seeds, a feature that will allow both agriculture officials, farmers, and landowners to get a precise feel for things like how plant growth is progressing through the season and make more informed business decisions based on multiple data points. While this sort of information is valuable from that standpoint, it should also eventually trickle down to a number of uses, including allowing anyone interested in buying farmland a wide-ranging (both far away and up-close) view of the land they're interested in purchasing. North Dakota was chosen to host this test based on the fact that it leads the nation in production of 10 types of farm commodities and is also the only stated qualified by the Federal Aviation Administration to allow drone flights above 200 feet, the standard limit imposed on the rest of the United States. The summer of 2016 project is expected to cost in excess of $700,000 and is being funded by the North Dakota State Chamber of Commerce and the manufacturer of the drone aircraft. The Israeli company intends to sell the photographs and data to farm groups and producers. North Dakota State University Podcast: Sound Ag Advice 027 The agricultural uses of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) looks bright, says John Nowatzki, NDSU Agricultural Machine Systems Specialist. Source: Associated Press: High-flying drone makes 1st flight to test farmland photos

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