The future of the drone discussed at Kansas Ag Summit

Published: Aug. 30, 2016 at 9:22 PM CDT
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The drone could grow to be a friend to the common farmer.

“It’s a way for us to get a visual of our fields, crops or our livestock that we can’t get from the ground. It enables us to go farther and interpret that data more efficiently so that we can be more efficient on our farm, which is an exciting opportunity,” said Billy Brown, Agribusiness Development Coordinator for the Kansas Department of Agriculture.

Brown led a workshop focused on the Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), or drones, at the Kansas Governor’s Summit on Agricultural Growth Tuesday morning in Manhattan.

Agricultural representatives from politicians, stakeholders and farmers to university employees discussed the economic value of the drone industry.

“About 2013, and this is a report that I continually refer to, AUVSI (Association of Unmanned Vehicles Systems International) came out with an economic impact assessment and they identified potentially $1.9 billion in economic growth and 3,714- plus or minus- jobs that could be a benefit to the state of Kansas because of this industry,” said retired Marine Corps Col. Joel Anderson, Development Director at Kansas State University.

According to workshop leader Brown, privacy and data access is a major concern to participants that attended the workshop.

“When you fly over with a UAS or drone, there is a lot of information that is captured from your field. It’s really difficult to break that data down and there’s also questions of who owns that data? Is it the farmer who owns that data? Is it the company that collects that data for you and sells that information back to you; and so we also have to figure out how to analyze that data and that can be really challenging because there’s just so much of it,” said Brown.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback echoes the privacy concerns after his own father recently found a downed drone in his field and didn’t have a way to identify the owner.

“I think drones can be very helpful in the agriculture industry to be able to survey fields and see if you’ve got crop problems or insect infestations. I think this is an area where we’re well positioned to do some good things but you’re going to have your regulatory and privacy frameworks around it,” said Brownback.

Both Brown and Anderson agree the FAA’s recent rule change making commercial drone use easier is a step in the right direction.

“And that’s a really big sigh of relief that we can now move forward and be competitive globally because we were falling behind,” he said. “Now we can compete and do what we do really well in America.”