MUNCIE, Ind. — Drones give farmers a bird’s-eye view of their land, giving them access to important data.

Mark Carter, Purdue Extension specialist in Delaware County, said that field scouting and livestock monitoring are major reasons to use unmanned aerial vehicles on the farm.

“Just the coloration differences between a wet area in the field, or a hillside, and how the factors of that growing season are affecting the crop,” he said.

“Whether it’s through pests, insect pressure, disease, moisture — all those different things that differentiate the coloration of the vegetation. When you look from above, you can see that.

“It doesn’t necessarily tell you what the problems are, but it tells you where you need to go scout. That’s the real benefit.”

Although there are challenges with operating UAVs, Purdue Extension has tips to counter them.

Drone Challenges And Solutions

1. Clouds: Broken skies can ruin image quality.

Tip: Fly when skies are fully overcast or clear for optimal image quality.

2. Air traffic: Low-flying aircraft can threaten commercial drone operations.

Tip: Watch for helicopters or crop dusters — the most common aircraft.

3. Camera settings: Incorrect settings can affect image quality.

Tip: It takes a little experience. Familiarize yourself with general camera settings and know the goals of each particular flight.

4. Structural components: Barns and structures pose a risk to animal safety and the drone.

Tip: Fly around structures, not over them, to maintain animal safety and prevent damage to the drone.

5. Shadows: Extreme light contrasts in and around buildings, making it hard to see animals.

Tip: Try multiple camera settings and images to find the right balance.

6. Animal instinct: Animals may instinctively fear the sound or sight of the drone.

Tip: Keep a close eye on behavior and take measures to acclimate livestock to the drones’ presence.

Learn more about drones at https://extension.purdue.edu/uav.

Erica Quinlan can be reached at 800-426-9438, ext. 193, or equinlan@agrinews-pubs.com. Follow her on Twitter at: @AgNews_Quinlan.

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