A Rapidly Emerging Industry
The FAA has been mandated to complete its evaluations and develop regulations for UAV use by September 2015 – a timeframe that many industry watchers claim is holding back commercial growth for the technologies.
“The lack of FAA regulations is holding everything back,” said Barnes. “There’s a lot of technology ready to go right now, but there’s no legal way to execute it. As soon as the FAA makes its decisions, I think we’re going to see a lot of exciting things.”
According to agricultural research and marketing firm Entira, hundreds of “serious” manufacturers are involved in the UAV business today.
“The technologies are there,” said Entira’s Kelli Polatty. “People are now trying to hone in on some of the things that are missing, like sense and detect and avoid.
Polatty noted that many people working to get in on the ground floor of the UAV industry came from the ranks of the military and have experience with unmanned systems in many different capacities. Other precision agriculture companies are also exploring ways to coordinate UAVs with other systems.
“This is that next step in precision ag,” pointed out Polatty. “It can potentially help save time and input costs. Companies are currently working on business models that provide and help coordinate all of the image components – satellite, manned, unmanned fixed wing and unmanned rotary. Collecting the data and being able to turn around valuable information quickly will be the key.”
Hands-On Learning Experience
Anyone interested in more information about UAV technologies – with perhaps a little hands-on flying time – should check out the Delta AgTech Symposium: Advancing UAVs in Agriculture, which will be held July 7-8 at Agricenter International in Memphis. The conference – sponsored by Entira with support from AUVSI – is designed to showcase the potential on-farm uses of UAVs.
The two-day event will bring together crop consultants, agronomists, farmers and the businesses who serve them – plus UAV manufacturers and researchers – to discuss and explore how this technology can be integrated into farming practices. The two-day event will include demonstrations of the aircraft, speakers, and a trade show for organizations to share their knowledge and solutions.
“When we developed this program, we wanted to focus on our regional area,” said Polatty. “But some of the inquiries we’re getting are coming from all over, including California and several Southeast and Midwest states.”
The conference will feature presenters from all aspects of the current UAV industry, including manufacturers, technology providers, crop consultants and others. Representatives of UAVSI and the FAA are also scheduled to speak.
“We want to make sure we have different parties represented in order to share perspective and help connect the dots within the industry,” added Polatty. “Manufacturers and service providers – all of whom have great ideas – need to know what the challenges are for the end-users.
“We know the technology is there. We just need open conversations.”
Visit the Delta AgTech Symposium website for registration information and a schedule of demonstrations and presentations.