By Warrick Kernes
Flying cameras seem like something out of the movie Back to the Future but the future has now arrived as Drones are now readily available and they will make your life easier on the farm.
We have already seen Drones being used practically by South African farmers for various reasons such as aerial game counts, crop assessments, monitoring irrigation pipes, perimeter fence checks, looking for trespassers, searching for game to hunt and even to see what the children are up to. We know of a group of farmers in the Northern Cape who have turned to this new technology to assess their crop fields and in doing so they’ve changed a previously tedious task into a breeze. They have set up their Drone to fly to predetermined GPS coordinates to check respective crops so in the morning all they need to do is turn it on and send it off, 20 minutes later the drone returns and lands itself back on the patio and they can now watch the video back on their tablet to see how each of their crop fields are doing. These GPS way-points can be set up as you like to assess fences, kraals, staff villages or whatever you choose. The Drone will fly to the pre-set point and can even be set to a particular height and to point the camera the way you want.
In another situation we helped a farmer who desperately needed to capture and relocate his three black rhinos. These animals had come to know the sound of vehicles and helicopters and disappeared into the thicket before they could be located however the sound of the Drone was not threatening to them so we were able to fly the camera in a grid until we located the animals and could radio to the chopper and vet to fly in. As the animal heard the heli rotors in the distance it darted for cover but we followed its position easily just meters above the tree tops and we could then direct the vet into position to dart the animal.
The world’s leading commercial Drone company is DJI with their most popular range being the Phantom 3 Drones which come with a built in camera and GPS receiver. The included remote holds your phone or tablet to show a live view of what the camera is seeing while it is up in the air. Controlling the Drone is surprisingly simple especially because you can fly in GPS mode which means that even if you let go of all the controls the Drone will hold its position in the sky and not move until signaled to. The intelligent battery will last up to 25 minutes and will automatically return home and land where it took off from if it calculates that its battery power is too low. The distance at which you can control the Drone is an incredible 2km from the remote controller but if you are flying by way-points the distance can be much further as it can fly at speeds of up to 56km/h.
Taking aerial photos and videos is now easier than ever before with these types of Drones. Mapping your land and looking for lost animals couldn’t be easier than it is with a Drone but this is really just the beginning of how Drones will be adopted in the farming industry. We have already seen tests being carried out for Drones which will automatically perform your required crop dusting and will determine how much pesticide to spread over an area by factoring the type of crop, the predicted precipitation and even the wind. Spreading of new seed will be an easy function for Drones in the future and we’re also fairly close to having commercially available Drones fitted with thermal imaging cameras which can scan your land continuously and alert you of any trespassers on the property. It will SMS you a picture of the person with the exact time and coordinates and if you send the command it will follow the person until you arrive. Further down the road we expect to see that these Drones will be fitted with solar power so that they will only need to return to land once every few weeks for simple maintenance.
While this futuristic view of what Drones may become seems like far off science fiction, so did the idea of flying cameras – but this is now reality and instead of dismissing this new technology we can embrace it and use it to our advantage.
For use on a farm it is recommended to buy extra batteries, spare propellers and a protective case. This can all be found at a terrific deal price on the Action Gear website in the deal called the Farmers Drone Bundle. If you would like to find out more contact Action Gear (tel: 011 781 1323 / email: firstname.lastname@example.org).