Sunday, January 11, 2015

Drones and Farming? The combination could create jobs for Idaho (with video)

Those who rely on plants to keep afloat could yield more produce thanks to technology from an unlikely source.

Those with the Federal Aviation Administration recently approved a Star company's plan to use unmanned aircraft systems, or drones, in the field of agriculture.

Farmers that choose to incorporate technology that Advanced Aviation Solutions, Blair Farms and Empire Airlines created could allow for higher crop yields and reduced operating costs. Another benefit is that the technology could create less hazards to the environment.

"We're the birth place of unmanned aircraft systems technology in agriculture, because we're the only ones who have access and the ability to do it in the nation," said Steve Edgar, president and CEO of Advanced Aviation Solutions.

With that said, Edgar is aware that competition is soon to follow. But for now, the group's proposal to use unmanned aircraft systems for commercial use in the world of agriculture is the only one the FAA has approved.

Once the drones arrive, and the longtime pilot receives approval to fly in designated areas, farmers can tap into this new resource.

"We can provide a farmer pinpoint accuracy of stress points within his field," Edgar said. "From that, he can then find out what the corrective action is."

Edgar is not the drone manufacturer but rather he represents the data carrier side of the operation. He foresees the future for farmers being bright as advances in technology are just about to sprout.

At the same time, the cost of the technology will come down, which will make this an affordable option for all.

"We are able to do almost this spot application of water, fertilizer, pesticides, or whatever the case may be, and that will allow us to have better, cleaner food and obviously increase yield," Edgar said.

In return, this added dimension to aerospace could mean new jobs for Idahoans.

Edgar is already in talks with university leaders to create new pilot training programs.

"I will work with the department of labor and everybody else to see what kind of set up do to have a flow through of train, to hire, to job, and stay here in Idaho with it," he said.

Pilots begin training in February, and the drones first flight operation is set for March.

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