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Home Grown: Ag drones making farming cheaper and more effective

CBS 13's April Hettinger looks into how it can make ag more environmentally friendly

YUMA, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - Drones are becoming a game-changer for agriculture in the Desert Southwest. In some cases, it can be more cost effective and efficient than manual labor.

Dr. Mazin Saber is a postdoctoral researcher for the University of Arizona Yuma Agricultural Center.

"You can determine if there is a disease in one spot or some problem with the crops you are planting there. It's hard to do it by person to send a crew to a field," Dr. Saber explained. "It takes hours to figure out where is the problem location, but with the drone, in a few minutes, you can determine, okay, this is the spot we have a problem with disease or something wrong with the color of the plants."

Not only does it save time, it's also cheaper.

The main goal of this project is to measure water usage. They have calculated an 85-90% efficiency in terms of water use for crops.

"This project is to account for every drop for each crop because of the shortage of water from the Colorado River," Dr. Saber stated. "So, we are working on determining how much water is used by our crops."

Satellite images can also do the job, just like some stationary ECV devices that calculate evapotranspiration or how much water is being used by the crop.

It can also tell the amount of incoming and outgoing energy from the sky.

But drones are taking over the lay of the land in the desert southwest on spinach, watermelon and lettuce fields.

"We have multispectral images, there is thermal images, there is infrared images we can use from drones," Dr. Saber said.

Dr. Andrew French Physical Scientist from the USDA-ALARC is the one who came up with this idea for drone data.

This is one of the biggest projects the University of Arizona and the Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture are working on right now to bridge the gap between satellite imaging and drone data.

Article Topic Follows: Home Grown

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April Hettinger

April was born and raised in San Diego where she loved the beach town and her two dogs, Lexi and Malibu. She decided to trade the beach for the snow and advanced her education at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.


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