McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

Features

August 27, 2013

Could drones 'spy' on the peanuts?

MOULTRIE, Ga. — It’s not exactly beating swords into plowshares, but drone technology used in warfare could one day fight weeds and disease that threaten crops.

Unmanned helicopters have been surveying small cotton and peanut plots at Moultrie's Sunbelt Agriculture Exposition this summer. Images from the craft can spot potential problems, saving farmers a lot of walking through the fields, says a team leading the trials.

In the future, larger aircraft could spray insecticides and other chemicals, treating small areas of crops to ward off larger infestations.

“This has so much potential,” Glen Harris, a University of Georgia extension cotton agronomist working on the team. “I’m excited to see what the rest of the flights will reveal."

The military has led the development of flying drones, and law enforcement is adapting them to civilian use. Unmanned aircraft are finding business uses, as well, though the Federal Aviation Administration is still writing rules governing their commercial use.

The South Georgia team has drawn attention and support from agricultural and aviation agencies, as well as Guided Systems Technologies of Stockbridge, Ga., which built the helicopters. Middle Georgia State College's aviation campus has conducted the flights over five-acre plots of cotton and peanuts.

John Beasley, a UGA peanut agronomist on the team, said the drones can assess a large field that would take hours to scout by foot - and do it better. That's especially powerful given far fewer peanut producers in the state - about 4,000 to 4,500 - who manage roughly the same number of crops as was once cultivated by 14,000 farmers.

“Imagine the man hours it’s going to save. Imagine the preciseness we can have," said Beasley. "What I like is the preciseness.”

The 25-pound helicopter used in the Moultrie trials and its systems would cost $60,000 to $80,000, making it cost prohibitive to most smaller producers. But Eric Corban, founder and owner of Guided Systems Technologies, said the price will come down with time.

Alan Mauldin writes for The Moultrie Observer.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Features
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Raw: Israel Bombs Multiple Targets in Gaza Veteran Creates Job During High Unemployment Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks From Space Station Widow: Jury Sent Big Tobacco a $23B Message New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts UN Security Council Calls for MH 17 Crash Probe Obama Bestows Medal of Honor on NH Veteran Texas Sending National Guard Troops to Border Hopkins to Pay $190M After Pelvic Exams Taped Foxx Cites Washington 'Circus Mirror' NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong Obama Voices Concern About Casualties in Mideast Diplomacy Intensifies Amid Mounting Gaza Toll AP Exclusive: American Beaten in Israel Speaks Obama Protects Gay, Transgender Workers Raw: Gaza Rescuers Search Rubble for Survivors Raw: International Team Inspects MH17 Bodies Raw: 25 Family Members Killed in Gaza Airstrike US Teen Beaten in Mideast Talks About Ordeal 'Weird Al' Is Wowed by Album's Success
NDN Video
Obama: Putin must push separatists to aid MH17 probe Michigan inmates no longer allowed to wear orange due to 'OITNB' Adam Levine Ties the Knot Sebastian The Ibis Walks Beautiful Bride Down The Aisle | ACC Must See Moment NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong Faces of Souls Lost in Malaysian Plane Crash 105-year-old woman throws first pitch Man Creates Spreadsheet of Wife's Reasons for Turning Down Sex 'Weird Al' Is Wowed by Album's Success Rory McIlroy struggles, surges, wins British Open NOW TRENDING: Real life Pac-Man Explosions as hot air balloon crashes in Clinton DUI Driver Dragged to Safety by Officer After Walking Onto Busy Freeway Celebrities That We'd Like to Send to the Moon Spectacular lightning storm hits London Malaysian Flight Victim Was South Florida Grad Rory McIlroy on pace to break British Open records Officials Fear MH17 Site Now Tampered by Rebels Lowes employees repair Vietnam vet's wheelchair Widow of Staten Island man who died after NYPD takedown says he was unjustifiably targeted
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.