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Drones

County Agent News
Dan Folske
December 18, 2017

 

Drones

            Do you need a drone? Almost every farm publication carries another article about the usefulness of drones. Weed surveys, fertility assessments, plant Drone 1populations, identifying sick animals, heat detecting cows, etc. are all potentially useful, but do you have the additional resources and equipment necessary to make use of the data. Color imaging surveys of fields during the growing season can identify areas suffering from fertilizer deficiencies or disease. It may be possible do some treatment to correct the situation during the growing season or map it for treatment prior to the next growing season. However a fertility problem which is identified by the remote sensing capabilities of the drone or by a satellite may not be visible to the human eye in a field. Do you have an applicator with the right software that can take the data from the drone and apply a recue fertilizer treatment to the right areas without wasting fertilizer on the areas that don’t need it? Do you have a variable rate fertilizer system that can correlate soil tests, soil types, topography, yield maps, and drone or satellite imagery to do a variable rate application for next year?  If your answer to these questions is no, then purchasing a drone to record this type of data is probably not a cost efficient choice. However maybe a simpler drone which can still map and measure wet spots which couldn’t be seeded for crop insurance and planting certifications might still be useful. Another thought about the usefulness of a drone for you is whether or not you are already using data you are collecting from yield monitors on your combine.  I’ve talked with a lot of producers who have yield monitors but have never used them or didn’t know how to do anything with the data.

Cattlemen, do you have RFID tags so that a body heat infrared sensor on a drone which senses an animal with an elevated body temperature can also identify which animal is sick or in heat? If your expensive drone can’t tell you which animal is sick, does it really provide valuable information to you? On the other hand, a less expensive drone which can transmit video to your cell phone may still allow you to see if sloughs and dams still have water in them or if an animal is stuck in the mud without having to drive over each hill in a pasture or allow you to do a head count from a composite of still photos. I have pastures with a lot of tall cattails where an aerial view would be helpful when checking cows. There are numerous $100 to $150 drones which could give me that view but the flight time on the drones in that price range is very short. I don’t need infrared sensors or extremely high resolution cameras but extended flight times might be a good upgrade for me.

Flying a Drone During Cold Weather (From the Center Points blog, NDSU Carrington Research Center 12/18/17)

Just as a reminder, those who wish to fly a drone for business purposes are required to comply with the FAA small UAS rule (14 CFR part 107) and to obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate. You can find more information about becoming a certified remote pilot here https://www.faa.gov/uas/getting_started/fly_for_work_business/becoming_a_pilot/.

For ranchers who own a drone, as the weather gets colder and colder, it sounds like a very good idea to fly your drone over the yard or pasture to check on the cattle. Drone makers in general have a recommended temperature range for operation. For example, the operating temperature range for both DJI Phantom 4 and DJI Mavic drone series is between 32oF and 104oF. So, if you are flying at temperatures below 32, you are flying at your own risk. Know that cold temperatures increase the risk of something going wrong with your drone and it is very unlikely that the drone maker will cover any damage resulting from flights carried out under unsuitable conditions.

One thing to keep in mind when flying under cold conditions is that your flight time will be shorter than normal due to the effects of low temperature on the lithium-polymer (LiPo) batteries. Cold weather temperatures slow down the chemical reactions in LiPo batteries, which lowers their capacity. Under those conditions, typical flight time (20-25 minutes) may be shortened to 10-15 minutes.

Drone 2Low temperatures can cause sudden large drops in power levels, which can compromise your ability to bring the drone back “home”, and in extreme cases it can cause the drone to crash. Low temperatures can also impact the performance of the drone’s sensors, which can cause it to drift and to be less responsive to the pilot’s control inputs. This may be a big issue when flying closer to obstacles, such as buildings and trees, and can result in a crash due to poor control of the drone. In addition, adverse temperature condition might make very hard for one to keep steady control of a drone.

If you feel like flying your drone during the coming months, I would encourage you to take a look on some tips provided in this link https://www.autelrobotics.com/blog/flying-drones-in-cold-weather-3-tips-to-do-it-right/ and on this video https://youtu.be/Chcv8ESb60I?t=40. The tips provided may improve your chances of having a successful flight under cold conditions.

As always, please keep safety as a top priority when flying. Drone crashes happen all the time. Flying at low temperature weather will increase the odds of one of those happening to you. Remember that flying a drone below drone maker recommended temperatures means that you are flying at your own risk, and it is unlikely that the company will cover any damage resulting from such flight. Be safe out there!!!

 

 

Temporary Office Relocation

            Due to construction at the Burke County Courthouse the NDSU Extension office has been moved into the Veterans Services office in the basement of the Courthouse. Our phones are being forwarded to my cell phone or Charlene’s cell phone so you can reach us at the same 701-377-2927 number. This is a temporary move but we have not been given any timeline for completion of the portion of the project affecting our regular office space. My email and cell phone remain unchanged. Dan.folske@ndsu.edu and 701-339-1133.

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