Krause discusses future of drones in agriculture
TRENTON — Dave Krause, a former IBM software designer, spoke at length about new possibilities utilizing drones for agriculture on March 1.
Krause addressed a breakfast and lunch meeting of Young Farmers and Ag Professionals prior to the group’s tour of Terhune Orchards.
He owns Influential Drones, a Lumberton-based company that supplies drones to several governmental entities and sells and services a range of drones for use on farms. Mostly, Krause’s small business is involved in training various law enforcement agencies in the proper and legal, uses for drones.
While drones are used widely for agriculture in other parts of the world, he said, “the fastest growing industry for drones is in public safety.
“I’m of the belief that the market is not going to take off or do what it needs to do unless law enforcement is made aware of how to use this properly because there are two sides to it, they need to be able to enforce it and make sure people are following the laws.”
Farming is difficult and full or surprises, he said, “but the drone doesn’t have to be. Stress is invisible, but the drone doesn’t have to be. A drone has the ability of putting a sensor on it and seeing what’s happening in the background, behind the naked eye.” Drones can pick up the reflection of chlorophyll on plants.
“You can tell if a plant [or tree] is healthy or not before it tells you, and you can tell that in real time, so this is invaluable to farmers,” Krause said, “but the greatest thing about the drone market is you don’t need me. You can do it all yourself.”
Farmers will need a drone services company initially for training, he acknowledged, but after that, drones can follow various programs and transmit up-to-the-minute data to a farmer’s cell phone. After looking at drone acquired sensor data, he said, “I can translate that into how many plants or trees are actually healthy, what areas of soil are too dry, and they can help you do your estimates, your insurance plans, help you do all kinds of [farm tasks] accordingly.”
Drones can be equipped with various types of cameras, including full spectrum cameras, and can range in price from $1,200 to $8,000 for sophisticated models equipped with sprayer components. Farmers can target areas of their farms, vineyards or orchards that are in trouble and save time and money by not having to hike and examine those parts of the property themselves. Drones also come in handy in managing livestock herds, whether they’re goats, sheep, cows or bison. Caution must be used with drones around horses, he warned, as they can get spooked.
“By saving time and money, I’m more efficient and our stress levels go down,” he said.
A commercial operator’s license is required for farmers to operate drones. Farmers must take a 150-question test over 90 minutes, “and while laws are starting to change, to stay legal and do the job you need to do to protect your farm, just take that test,” Krause said.
A wealth of information for farmers on licensing and registration issues can be found on www.faa.gov/uas.
Most Garden State farmers know that drones have been able to help conduct surveys of deer populations at night, but thermal imaging technology also is sophisticated enough that it can also detect aphid infestation and spotted lantern fly infestation. Most $1,200 basic drones come without thermal imaging technology, but various programs can be added.
In states like Texas, dotted with ranches with large herds of cows and other livestock, “they can take pictures of the herds and the thermal imaging comes in handy if one of them is missing in a neighbor’s field.”
Drones can help with more accurate applications of herbicides, pesticides and fungicides, Krause said.
“When you’re doing your assessments, you may only be walking around to your problem areas and you may miss something until you are ready for harvest,” Krause said, but a crop dusting drone “can hover at about 6 feet and spray what needs to be sprayed, you don’t have to worry about drift or contamination of your waterways, because we’re not spraying something from 75 feet.”
Using full-spectrum drones, farmers can find concentrations of magnesium in the soil or concentrations of things like ammonia which can damage crops, he said. Existing drones can be modified by clipping on new sensors.
For farmers with areas of their farm difficult to get to on foot, drones can come in very handy.
“I’m not here to tell you there’s no value to an airplane coming in, but you can drop seeds with precision from a drone. I can tell the drone to drop more seeds in that area and I can use another drone to drop water.”
Krause stressed he’s an expert on drones, not on farming.
“What I did with my business was I brought on board someone with 20 years’ worth of experience with pesticides,” he said, “using drones, there’s a whole bunch of things you’ve never had at your fingertips before. These are all ways you can protect yourself, it’s an investment like buying a tractor,” he said.
“It’s another tool to help you do your job better.”