6 ways to use a drone on the farm

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Thiele Dairy Farm
William Thiele uses this drone to check fields, groundhog traps, drains and cows in the pasture. The Thiele Dairy, Cabot, Pennsylvania, has started using the drone as a tool to assist in decision making on the farm. (Katy Mumaw photos)

1Field checks
Drones are helpful for everyday crop checks, but can also be helpful in annual checks to see if what you have done to improve drainage, or whatever else, is working.

2Annual progress
If you fly over your field on the same day each year you can see improvements or notice that nothing has changed.

3Pest control
Thiele also uses the drone to check his pest traps. He traps raccoons and groundhogs that destroy their crops and are a nuisance to the farm. Using the drone to check the traps saves him steps and time by first discovering which traps need attention.

4Spot spraying
DJI makes a drone about two or three times larger than a typical drone with eight rotors that can be used to spot spray. It lifts a tank high into the air, and the operator can view the field from the air and spray where it is need, saving time and money with precision spraying.

5NVDI
Normalized difference vegetation index is a numerical indicator that uses the visible and near-infrared bands of the electromagnetic spectrum.

This technology has been adopted to analyze remote sensing measurements and assess whether the target being observed contains live green vegetation or not. With NVDI, you can determine crop damage, stress, draught, wind or hail damage.

6Education
Farmers are lifelong learners, hosting many field days and discussions to share and learn from one another, Thiele, like others, has used his drone to share farming practices with others.

He has taken drone footage at farming events so farmers could see what was happening in the field live on a screen. He also focuses on agricultural advocacy, taking videos of the everyday happenings at his farm and creating a voice-over to educate consumers.

Source: William Thiele, Butler County, Pa. dairy farmer.

Next week: Selecting a drone.

(Farm and Dairy is featuring a series of “101” columns throughout the year to help young and beginning farmers master farm living. From finances to management to machinery repair and animal care, farmers do it all.)

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