Drones (Pic1), or unmanned aerial vehicles, are hot topics in the media. The technology has exploded from just a few years ago—were’re talking Pong to Xbox leaps here. The hobbyist and private industries have drawn from military technology that has become cheap and widely available, outpacing laws and regulation by FAA in many respects. John Q. Public sees the potential misuse for illegal surveillance, and drone hunting licenses complete with posted rewards for confirmed government drone kills are showing up.
For those of you with that drone hunting license, and especially if you’re visiting my turf plots, don’t shoot down my drone! I crash it enough as it is, so save your ammunition and just hang around and watch it fall, HA! I actually hired a drone pilot and mechanic (RC plane hobbyist), Mr. Joe Giuliano, who has done a much better job preventing those costly unplanned landings. The drone has GPS and multigyro automatic stabilization that make it very easy to fly, once it’s setup. Joe also helps me painting spots around treatment areas and with data collection. He rebuilt one of my spray rigs, and has provided other valuable technical help to my program as well.
I’ve had it since Dec. 2012, and I’ve found it useful as a way to get a snapshot of the “big picture” trends on a tee, green, or one of my fungicide evaluation trials (Pic2). Here’s the frog-eye view from the GoPro camera in an unedited shot (Pic3). Most of the pictures I take end up being filed with data and not used much, but occasionally they show me something I hadn’t noticed from the ground. I also make the occasional flyover video of the plots.
There are all sorts of uses I could see for the technology in the turfgrass industry moving forward–you know, besides the obvious Amazon order deliveries of extra golf balls to the 100-plus-club (like me) on the back 9 or delivering beer out to the course when the beverage cart is running low.
Joe and I have some ideas that involve incorporating NDVI-type studies with precision Ag-like delivery of pesticides. Think, scan for disease with drones during the day, map trouble areas via GPS, and spot apply with a spray drone at night, only where the fungicide would do the most good. That’s a long way’s off, and we really need an engineer to make it fly… that and a big grant. Oh well, back to earth and the backpack sprayer for now.