Buzzing along at 350 feet, it takes the ground-controlled aircraft just 11 minutes and 16 seconds to pass over 22.5 acres and capture 219 images.
If a yellow patch shows up on the near-infrared photographs, that alerts the staff at Highland Precision Ag — and eventually, the grower — that there is an issue with some of the plants. The drone team can then come back with more specialized cameras and lenses to pinpoint exactly the problem the plants have encountered, whether that’s spider mites, mold or something else that could kill them or hinder peak production.
Over the next three years, the system Highland Precision Ag is developing will give farmers custom computer dashboards on which they can monitor their crops, follow recipes for treating disease and treat only those areas of their fields that need it.
“Most farmers today just broadcast chemicals” across their fields, Maxwell said. “We want to get to the point we can build a recipe with fertilizer or chemical companies, a customized treatment plan. That will reduce the footprint, environmentally, while still producing the yields we need to produce for a hungry world.”