drones

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When you have good information, you can make good decisions. Farmers know that better than anyone. So when technology is available to help inform their decisions on crop management, they are all in.

Brandon Batten is one of those farmers. He is a partner in the family business, Triple B Farms, an 800-acre operation in southern Johnston County. He’s also a commercial remote pilot, certified to fly drones.

The technology gives Batten a bird’s-eye view of his fields and allows him to focus in on crop issues. “I use the drone for scouting and diagnosing larger problems, such as fertility issues,” the sixth-generation farmer says. “It allows me to quickly see where a problem is and then target my efforts there. It’s much more efficient and effective than walking a whole field and still maybe not finding the problem.”

Batten has been using the drone in his operation for two years and recently established a business, Flying Farmer LLC, to educate other farmers on the potential benefits of the technology.

“Many farmers are interested in learning about drone technology and how it can be useful in their particular operation,” says Batten, who studied engineering at North Carolina State University. “There really is no limit to what commodity it can be used for, but the key is to determine what the need is and the best method to capture the data.”

Batten describes his work with a pecan grower, for instance. The drone was able to capture aerial images of the grove and provide data on canopy diameter of individual trees several times throughout the growing season, which provided vital information for the grower.

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In North Carolina, drones can also be licensed as a method for applying pesticides. The technology is especially useful for smaller areas, such as vineyards, or localized spraying needs. Batten encourages farmers to consider the technology for their operation. “The world looks a whole lot different from 400 feet up, and those views can provide a lot of valuable information.”

There are benefits even with an entry-level drone, which costs between $1,200 and $1,500.

“Flying the drone is certainly fun to do, but the value comes from analyzing the data that the drone provides,” Batten says. “By utilizing advanced technologies, we can help the agriculture industry remain strong.”

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