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Drones: Agriculture’s New Best Friend!
Drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are commonly associated with the military. Interest in drones has been growing by leaps and bounds and has become one of the hottest most popular emerging technologies today. They provide numerous opportunities in a wide range of industries from law enforcement to agriculture.
The overall drone market is around $127 million dollars. Global Market Insights reports that the agricultural drone market will be set to surpass $1 billion by 2024.  It is one of the industries that is reaping the benefits of drone technology.
Michael Mazur writes, “that drone-powered solutions in all applicable industries is significant and that one of the most promising areas for drones is agriculture, as drones can address several major challenges.” 
What are Drones?
There are as many definitions for drones as there are drones. However, the most common definition is a flying robot. The more formal definition for a drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle or UAV. Drones are different from other aircrafts as they do not carry a human pilot. They are often controlled by an onboard computer that is flying autonomously through software-controlled flight plans embedded in software that works in conjunction with onboard sensors and Global Positioning Systems (GPS). Many can be flown from a remote location by a human pilot or operator.
Drones can range in price from $50 to several thousands of dollars, but agricultural drones can cost from below $1000 to more than $25,000 and are designed specifically for data gathering for farmers and agriculture service providers to assist farmers.
Applications of Drones in Agriculture
As agricultural drone technology continues to gain in popularity, farmers are learning the benefits of this growing emerging technology. Agricultural experts and scientists are seeing how agricultural drones allow farmers to constantly monitor the condition of their crops and livestock by air to quickly and efficiently find and address problems. Agricultural drones are used to map and survey crops and to spray crops faster and better than traditional tractors. Lastly, agricultural drones help to reduce costs and protect workers from exposure to potential harmful pesticides and other chemicals. 
Opportunities and Challenges for Agricultural Drones
There are several opportunities and challenges for agricultural drones. Some of the opportunities include:
- Drone can be used for soil and field analysis.
- Drones can be used for monitoring vast fields of crops.
- Drones can spray over vast areas of land faster and more efficiently than traditional tractors.
- Drones can assess when parts of fields are dry and can spray the necessary liquids.
- Drones can analyze and track the health of crops.
- Drones are quick to deploy and faster than more traditional farming methods.
Some of the challenges include:
- Drones can be challenging to keep abreast of Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) rules and regulations
- Drones can have a steep learning curve.
- Drones can have short flight times of between twenty minutes to an hour that can be challenging to drone operators.
- Drones, drone accessories, and upgrades can be quite expensive. 
In the future, there will be exponential growth in the area of drones as the cost of drones, and agricultural drones in particular, continue to drop and become easier to use. Agricultural drones will allow farming to become a highly data-driven industry, which will lead to an increase in productivity, yields, and return on investments (ROI). 
Just remember that the next time that you need your vast crops monitored, surveyed, analyzed, watered, and sprayed, call on your new best friend, the agricultural drone, to help you out.
Portions of this article are from the upcoming book, Emerging Library Technologies: It’s Not Just for Geeks, by Ida A. Joiner, publishing in August 2018 by Chandos Publishing, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.
Need a copy of your own? Save 30% on this book and others on elsevier.com. Enter discount code STC317 at checkout.
About the book:
Emerging Library Technologies: It’s Not Just for Geeks is written for librarians, library media specialists, information professionals, teachers, administrators, researchers, undergraduate and graduate students, and others who are interested in learning about some of the hottest emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, drones, driverless vehicles, big data, virtual reality/augmented reality, 3D printing, wearable technologies, and the role of libraries.
- Covers innovative insights on how these emerging technologies can be used in all types libraries and resource centers.
- Discusses how to get key stakeholders on board before implementing emerging technologies, including a checklist to complete before presenting your technology proposal to senior management.
- Brings unique perspective for assisting people who will be displaced by these emerging technologies.
- Identifies resources for keeping abreast and building expertise with the emerging technology topic at the end of every chapter.
- Contains tips on how professionals can forge strategic relationships to collaborate on emerging technology projects such as preparing students for STEM and STEAM careers.
- Discusses how professionals can use and teach these emerging technologies to others in their libraries and resource centers.
- Poses engaging questions for further discussion after each chapter.
- Includes a comprehensive glossary at the end of each chapter.
About the author:
Ida Arlene Joiner currently serves as the Librarian at the Universal Academy in Texas. Previously, she was the Technology Coordinator for the National Network of Libraries of Medicine – Middle Atlantic Region (MAR), and was formerly a Project Management Consultant for several companies such as PNC, PPG, Tucker Arensberg and others where she saved them thousands of dollars in technical costs. Ida has developed proposals and presented them to get shareholders on board for implementing content management, learning management, website conversion, and other technology-related projects. She is a doctoral student in Texas Wesleyan University’s Curriculum and Instruction program. She holds her MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh and a BA degree in Business Management from Chatham University. She holds several appointments in the American Library Association (ALA) including Library and Information Technology Association (LITA) and the International Relations Roundtable (IRRT). Her research focuses on emerging technologies such as drones, robotics, driverless vehicles, artificial intelligence, augmented/virtual reality, and their use in libraries and education.
-  Agriculture Drones Market Worth Over $1 Billion by 2014. Global Market Insights.
- Mazur, Michael.  Six Ways Drones Are Revolutionizing Agriculture. PwCDrone. PwC’s Drone-Powered Solutions Division. MIT Technology Review.
- Meola, Andrew.  Exploring Agricultural Drones: The future of farming is precision agriculture, mapping, and spraying. Business Insider.
- Kipkemoi, Peter.  The Pros and Cons of Drones in Agriculture. DroneGuru.
- Anderson, Chris.  Agricultural Drones:Relatively cheap drones with advanced sensors and imaging capabilities are giving farmers new ways to increase yields and reduce crop damage. MIT Technology Review.
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