Unmanned Helicopter Could Help Protect Crops

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By: Kara Duffy
August 20, 2013

Moultrie, GA - The newly debuted electronic mini-helicopter may look like a child's toy, but folks in the agriculture industry say it's much more; they believe it could change the future of farming.

"Just think about being able to look out at the center of a 300 acre field, that you normally can't get out to, and there's an insect or a disease infestation, that you now can address immediately," explained Dr. Joe West, the Assistant Dean of the University of Georgia Tifton Campus.

Using advanced cameras and GPS software, the unmanned helicopter, created by Guided Systems Technologies, would allow farmers to one day do just that.

Innovators say the unmanned helicopter has the power to produce ariel images of crops and could give the one in seven Georgians who work in agricultural industry, a more sufficient way to maintain their crops and detect disease.

"Finding that little spot in the field can be tough sometimes," said Dr. John Beasley, the UGA Extension Agronomist for the peanut crop. "With this, you can correct a small area; as oppose to just treating the whole 200 acres, it might be you can just treat a 5 acre area. This technology allows a grower to quickly solve those problems."

Officials say they still have some hurdles to overcome before farmers can cash in on this product.

"Right now, the FAA doesn't have rules in place for commerical use of unmanned aircraft systems in national airspace," said Steve Justice, the Director of the Center of Innovation for Aerospace. "Congress has indicated to the FAA that they will have those rules in place no later than September 2015 so that's when we think this new market will take off," he added.

The crop-imaging research project is funded by the Georgia Centers of Innovation for Aerospace and Agribusiness, as well as the Guided Systems of Technologies.

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