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Drones Provide New Tools for Precision Agriculture, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

Low-cost aerial camera drones (in the form of small, fixed-wing airplanes or helicopters called quadcopters) can be seen flying over increasing numbers of farms to monitor crops and field conditions.  They can cost as little as $1,000, and are equipped with an autopilot, GPS and cameras.  Images analyzed by software on the ground can reveal irrigation problems, soil variation, pests and fungal infestations.  Infrared images highlight potential problems such as chlorophyll levels that can’t be seen with the naked eye.  
Unmanned aircraft are allowed to fly up to a ceiling of 400 feet by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the low altitudes afford farmers much better resolution than satellite imagery (which is far more expensive at about $1,000 per hour).  Drones can fly on regular schedules, so that farmers can compare images shot on a monthly, weekly, daily or even hourly basis to study changes in crop growth.  Key drone agricultural manufacturers include 3D Robotics, Yamaha and PrecisionHawk.

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