Using drones to monitor crops - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Using drones to monitor crops

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On a windy day in Butler County, Tom Smidt is headed out to the bean field with his gear in tow.

For the past few months, the owner of Smidt Crop Management has been experimenting with a drone to survey crops. It's a small quadrocopter with a camera mounted underneath.

“The big thing for me is once the corn is over my head, I just can't see what's happening other than the spot I'm at,” Smidt said. “I just don't have time to walk every part of a field.”

Once he takes the drone photos back to the office, he can identify problems like drainage issues. It's a service many farmers could use this time of year. According to the Secretary of Agriculture's crop report, rain has delayed the corn harvest by three weeks.

But, federal regulations prohibit the commercial use of drones, so right now, Smidt is just testing the technology.

He hopes that changes.

“As opportunities arise, I hope maybe we can use this and help a little bit,” he said.

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