Drones to power farmers check crop progress

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Washington
Washington, June 5: Drones - or unmanned aerial vehicles - would soon help farmers check the progress of their crops and determine where they may need to replant or direct pesticide applications.

Crop researchers at University of Illinois are experimenting with two drones to take aerial pictures of crops growing in research plots on university's south farms.

"As the crop gets up and going, we will fly over it. We are also looking at doing some scans over our herbicide studies to see if the drone photography can help us identify where crops are stressed by postemergence herbicide applications," said Dennis Bowman, a crop sciences educator with University of Illinois.

Both drones are multirotor helicopters, or quadricopters.

Using rechargeable lithium polymer batteries, each drone can make flights of about 10 to 15 minutes.

The computers in the drones are similar to those used in smartphones.

"Standard pictures and videos taken with drones can tell us a lot," Bowman said.

"It probably is not going to tell us what the problem is but it will tell us where problems are so that we can target our scouting in those specific areas and determine what might be occurring," he said.

The drones also may be deployed in the battle against Palmer amaranth, an invasive weed.

Palmer amaranth is becoming increasingly resistant to herbicides and spreads so prolifically that it could drastically reduce farmers' yield potential in affected fields.

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