The drone industry is up in the air, but continues to grow rapidly allowing agriculturists like David Hopson to operate more effectively and efficiently than ever.
A Mound, Texas, native, Hopson said he has lived no further than a 1 ¼ mile from his current residence on his farm. He said at his peak he owned and operated 3,400 acres of farm land and uses drones as his eye in the sky.
“Growing up, my dad farmed a thousand acres,” Hopson said. “All I’ve ever wanted to do was farm.”
Hopson said he is equally invested in farming and livestock operations. He has grown oats and milo, but currently grows corn and wheat due to the chemical and technological advances in drought tolerance. His livestock operation primarily consists of Charolais bulls, Brangus cattle, and crosses Angus and Charolais to get black baldies.
“I farm for business,” Hopson said. “I run cattle for fun.”
He said he has taken a new interest in the drone industry for agricultural purposes. He invested in a DJI Phantom 4 with the intention to monitor his cattle and farmlands. He bought it without knowing the value it would hold, but chose to take extra steps to register it through the Federal Aviation Administration.
“If it becomes a tool I’ll be prepared,” Hopson said, “if it’s just a toy I enjoyed it.”
He said his main purpose was to monitor his heifer pasture without being a nuisance. He said it’s hard to use for crops because it loses signal, but can be used for up to three miles away. He can fly it over a thousand acres of cropland in a fraction of the time than he can driving.
According to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, agriculturists are being impacted by the exemptions from the FAA. These exemptions are allowing efficiency rates to rise and continuously evolve farm practices.
Arthur Lee Munz, a farmer in Moody, Texas, said he grew up in a traditional farm setting and has not implemented the use of drones on his farm. He said he believes it has helped farmers monitor fields easily during harvest or after a hard rain.
“You can get stuck in the field in a tractor,” Munz said, “but not with a drone.”
Hopson said he uses his drone to fly over fields when it is too wet to drive. He has utilized it to monitor the ranch drift that was caused when the river bordering his land flooded. His drone has features that allow him to lock onto objects, determine the height off the ground, and a ‘go home’ feature that will drop the drone at his feet.
“It’s crazy what technology can do these days,” Munz said.
Hopson said it gives you a perspective of harvest you do not usually see while farming. He said he is proud of being a farmer and will continue to use his drone on his farm.
The regulations for drone usage are still a controversial issue in the agriculture industry but for farmers like Hopson, the implementation of drones have proven efficient and effective when the right steps have been taken.