Farming With Drones

Agriculture | FIND Iowa
Apr 18, 2024 | 00:05:33

What other types of technology do you think could be useful in agriculture?

Farmers in Iowa are using drones to work more efficiently and ultimately save money. Check out how this technology from Rantizo is changing the way farmers work.


[Abby Brown] Over the last 100 years, farmers have tried lots of different strategies and tools and technologies to make sure every single seed that they plant grows to be strong and healthy. Once upon a time, the best way for farmers to take care of their crops was to walk up and down every row of crops and tend to every plant one at a time by hand. Like walking beans, farmers would walk up and down every row of soybeans and pull weeds, chop down stray stalks of corn and spray each plant with a special chemical to keep pests like weeds and bugs away. Those chemicals are called pesticides. Today, technology has led to a brand new way for farmers to spray their crops, with drones!

This is my friend Mike and he and his team invented this drone. Mike, can you tell us about this?

[Mike Ott] Sure, this is an octocopter that sprays in fields. Octocopter meaning eight, eight propellers going around.

[Abby] And are these just like helicopters?

[Mike] Exactly. And it can go any direction, up, down, sideways, left, right, you name it. And it will spray 20 feet wide in the field exactly where you want it to go. And the cool thing is it flies itself, you don't have to actually pilot it.

[Abby] How did farmers do this job before there were drones?

[Mike] Before they used tractors which go slowly through the field or they have planes which fly above and they're not very accurate. So what we can do is fly right in the field exactly where you want to be.

[Abby] Okay. So we put the pesticide in here and then it goes through these tubes?

[Mike] Yeah, it goes through the tubes and then out all these nozzles and the nozzles spray really evenly all the way across the field.

[Abby] How does it know where to go?

[Mike] We program that in there so you get a map of your field and you can spray the whole field or you can just go to little spots where your insects or your weeds are and spray right there.

[Abby] So tell me how you fly this thing.

[Beau Brown] We take it out to the field and we fill it with either stuff to put on the farm --

[Abby] Pesticides.

[Beau] Pesticides, herbicides. This one is actually set up to spread seed.

[Abby] Now, this looks a whole lot fancier than any of the remote controls that I've seen before. So tell me about this.

[Beau] Yeah, so it is a lot more fancy actually. So this drone is designed to do a job so it has to have very good connection. And to do that we have these large antenna which can reach out to the drone up to about 2 miles.

[Abby] Now, there's two ways to drive this, right? And one is you tell it everything to do and we call that manual, right?

[Beau] That's correct.

[Abby] Okay. And tell me about the other way to drive it.

[Beau] Yeah, the other way is the fun way which is where you basically create a map and then you send the drone off into that map and it flies by itself.

[Abby] So then what do we need you for?

[Beau] Good question. This stick will take the drone up and down and it will turn the drone left and right. This stick will take the drone forward and backward and move the drone left and right. And also I have a camera on the drone that allows me to see what I'm doing. It's kind of like a video game. But don't tell your mom.

[Abby] So, Emily, tell us what advantages do drones give to Iowa farmers?

[Emily Carlson] Drones give so many advantages to Iowa farmers. One of the biggest advantages that I think is when it comes to cost to maintain your field. With a drone you can use less pesticides or chemicals, whatever treatment you're using and as a result it costs less money. So think of it kind of big pictures, you might have an entire field but only a certain area needs treated. With a drone you can just fly out and apply what needs to be used right there.

[Abby] To the exact spot instead of doing the entire field, which would cost a lot.

[Emily] Exactly. Yep.

[Abby] Maybe you live on a farm. What tools or techniques does your family use to do the same job that the drone does? Were your grandparents farmers? How did they do that job? Or maybe you've never even been to a farm. Find out where you can visit so you can check out how they take care of their crops. You could even visit your county fair or the Iowa State Fair to see all kinds of agricultural tools and equipment. Maybe you'll even get to see drones like this!

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