UAS hot topic at Big Iron Farm Show

By Emily Aasand | September 11, 2014

Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) were a central topic at the 34th annual Big Iron Farm Show held in Fargo, N.D. The three-day event held various UAS seminars, presentations, data interpretations sessions, as well as UAS field demonstrations.

The presentation titled, “Drones, Data, Decisions” concentrated on the latest precision agriculture technology and ways farmers can utilize UAS to better understand their crops. The presentation consisted of three panel members: Mike Corcoran, UAS course manager at John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences at the  University of North Dakota UAS Center of Excellence, Kris Poulson, of North Country Ag Services, and John Nowatzki, from North Dakota State University.

The three discussed FAA regulations, how to implement UAS in farming, and current research being completed by the state universities. Corcoran, who works at one of the six approved UAS test site answered multiple question from the crowd regarding current FAA regulations and the consequences of flying UAS that are not in compliance to those regulations. Nowatzki discussed the NDSU Carrington Research Extension Center talked and its research on implementing UAS to analyze crops. Nowatzki also announced he’ll be holding seminars this winter to help people understand how to manage and analyze data collected by UAS.

“We’re working to make sure the data collected by the UAS are as accurate as the data collected by ground researches,” said Nowatzki.

The North Country Ag Services team is on the receiving end of UAS data. They analyze and processes field data gathered by UAS to establish field estimates, to provide still shots of crops and to break down each acre of land for farmers. Poulson and his team have looked at more than 600,000 acres of data to date and stressed that, “the actual aircrafts aren’t what is important, it is the data they are able to provide that is key.”   

Questions regarding training, data management, and FAA regulation expectations were all discussed, but one thing everyone in the room agreed on was that there’s a lot of growth in this industry to be had.