Thursday, October 11, 2012

NAPI considers drones for agricultural flyovers

Navajo Agricultural Products Industry plans to acquire a drone aircraft as soon as next summer to monitor the farm's crops. The unmanned aerial vehicle would be used to watch for changes in NAPI's crop fields and to spot problems early, said Tsosie Lewis, CEO of the Navajo farm enterprise. It would replace airplane flyovers conducted by a contractor for NAPI. Lewis said he got the idea after attending a conference in Vermont for major farm operators. “We can early on begin to see some problems that may exist because of lack of water, or salt conditions,” he said. Drone flyovers could lead to improving irrigation systems or changing fertilizer recipes in response to crop conditions, he said. NAPI currently conducts airplane flyovers at least monthly. Drones would be cheaper, Lewis said. “It lessens the cost for us,” he said. NAPI is a major producer of potatoes, alfalfa, pinto beans, corn and winter wheat on 72,000 acres of farmland south of Farmington. The tribe-owned enterprise is aggressively seeking to expand the market for its “Navajo Pride” products. Drones are used by federal agencies to watch forest fires and hurricanes, and to patrol the U.S. border with Mexico. Researchers at The Ohio State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are studying possible agricultural uses for drones...more

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