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Missouri Farmers Consider Using Drones

January 17, 2014
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Jim McMann, president of the Missouri Cattlemen's Association, who has about 500 head of cattle, said they would be a "wonderful time saver," especially during inclement weather.  
 
 

By: Katie Lamb, The Joplin Globe

Jim McCann hasn't taught his grandchildren how to drive a tractor yet, but they may already be able to teach him how to operate a piece of equipment that could be in farming's future.

McCann, of Lawrence County, Mo., is president of the Missouri Cattlemen's Association and was among more than 100 farmers who attended the 90th annual Lawrence County Soils and Crops Conference earlier this month.

Along with the usual topics — efficiently feeding hay, using cover crops, etc. — was a discussion on how unmanned airplanes, sometimes called drones, could benefit agriculture. It was led by Bill Wiebold, who when he is not piloting the small planes is the state soybean specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

Wiebold brought two planes, discussed how they operate and the legalities that come with using them.

"I really think there's a lot of opportunity with these things we're going to talk about," said Wiebold, who also said at first that he was hesitant to call them "drones" because of possible negative connotations.

Wiebold said each farmer would have their own reasons for wanting to use a drone, which costs about $1,000 plus $300 for a camera.

McCann, who has about 500 head of cattle, said they would be a "wonderful time saver," especially during inclement weather.

"If you're checking cattle, it would be much simpler and a whole lot nicer," he said. "If you're checking cows that are calving, it would cut your time by probably 75 percent."

Wiebold presented a video that was taken from one of the drones as it hovered over a crop field at about 175 feet. The footage was slightly shaky, Wiebold said, because there was a 20 mph wind gust.

"It's kind of fun to do, unless it crashes," Wiebold said, adding he crashed the drone shortly after taking the video.

Brent Drury, 23, of Strafford, said he'll probably buy a drone within a couple weeks.

"I'd be using it for checking livestock in the field," said Drury, who grows wheat, soybeans and alfalfa at J&K Farms east of Springfield. He also has a 300-acre cattle farm in that area.

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