‘Drone Swarm’ Approval – A Tool For Farmers

Instead of multiple tractors or ground rigs driving through farm fields in America, you may start to see multiple drones.

The Federal Aviation Administration has planted the seeds for multiple large drones to be flown over fields to monitor crops or apply products like fertilizer and pesticides.

Drone swarms have many benefits for the ag industry, explains Madison Area Drone Service co-founder Preston Rice. The precision of drones can help reduce inputs, such as fuel, fertilizer, sprays, and labor. A drone swarm allows one pilot to be more effective by operating multiple drones at once.

Larger drones can cover 50 acres in an hour, so if you’ve got four drones, for example, you can cover 200 acres in an hour. Keep in mind that agricultural drones don’t require someone to physically fly it, Rice says. Drones follow a pre-programmed flight path. The “pilot” is there to get it off the ground, fill up the tank, and switch out the batteries.

In some cases, these drones can replace equipment, like a ground sprayer. Drones can apply products when the ground is too wet to drive on or the crops are too tall to go over.

About 70 percent of drones are used in row crops. The other 30 percent are used for specialty crops, like orchards. Drones also help the DNR target invasive species, Rice says.