Professors propel drone farming future

Drones aren’t only used for gaming and photography. At ULM, two professors have taken drone technology and turned it into a successful agriculture tool.

Dr. Paul Karlowitz, associate professor of aviation, and Dr. Sean Chenoweth, assistant professor of geosciences, are producing data that could potentially help farmers practice more accurate agriculture. This would help them save them time and money.

The size of the average farm has grown over the years. According to Dr. Chenoweth, it is difficult for farmers to know exactly what’s happening on all of the acreage at any one time. Farmers tend to choose the easiest route and treat all of their land with fertilizer and chemicals. Drones can make this process a lot easier.

Chenoweth uses an assortment of cameras attached to the drones to determine the health of the crop. One of the cameras reads infrared reflection.

When data from the camera is downloaded onto a computer, darker areas of the field indicate healthier plants. Another camera, which measures heat, can help a farmer determine the wetness of the soil across his fields, allowing he or she to make exact decisions on questions of irrigation.

Although this technology has proven time and time again that it can benefit farmers greatly, the technology just hasn’t taken off in Northeast Louisiana.

The biggest problem is a lack of money. And, the problem right after that is most farmers don’t have the time to study and take the Federal Aviation Administration test.

In time, this technology could become the next big thing in agriculture. But until then, ULM will continue to incorporate their drone research into the university’s agribusiness studies.