Unmanned Aerial Vehicles let agronomists see fields longer into growing season without walking through them.

    Travis Lawell, a senior majoring in agricultural systems management from Apple Valley, Minn., recently presented on the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), a small, aerial vehicle piloted by remote control. Lawell built the UAV himself and presented his work to the remote sensing class at the University of Minnesota Crookston and discussed how the new technology will help impact precision agriculture for crop scouting and remote sensing purposes.

    “I have always been interested in things that could fly and that were remote controlled,” Lawell said. This interest steered him to explore the use of multi-rotors and eventually led him to build his own UAV and to explore how they can be used in agriculture.

    The use of UAVs allows agronomists to see a field later into the growing season without having to walk through the field and possibly harming the crop. Farmers can also use the technology to see more frequently what is going on in their fields during the growing season. The current method of gathering this information is often done through satellite imagery. Satellites only provide information at certain intervals as the satellites fly overhead, whereas the UAVs could be used however often the farmer wanted or needed.

    “This technology will provide another avenue for crop and field data collecting,” says Lawell.

    He continues to explain that currently there is still some controversy surrounding the technology, but the potential benefits of using UAVs will be very important for the future of the agricultural industry.