People have used the phrase "drone on and on" for a long time. Webster's dictionary defines this figure of speech as "to speak for a long time in a dull voice without saying anything interesting."

Yet, in agriculture, drones aren't dull, at all!

Farmers use drones to be more efficient. Drones help farmers improve yields and stay ahead of problems before they become too big.

Olga Walsh, University of Idaho, is researching the use of drones for fruit trees. Most of the agricultural applications for drones -- or, more technically unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) -- have been on grain crops like wheat, corn and soy.

"Adoption and use of crop sensors in production agriculture can save thousands of dollars every year in many crops," says Walsh. "Crop sensors also help to significantly improve the efficiency of agricultural inputs, such as fertilizers and water. Finally, drones can minimize negative impacts of agricultural activities on environmental quality."

In Idaho, the fruit industry grows grapes, cranberries, apples, and even alternative fruits like Asian pears. Apples are the largest fruit crop in Idaho, with over 60 million pounds of apples produced per year.1

Walsh's research team focused on applying UAV technology to fruit trees. Her previous work has been with wheat and other crops. "We know drones can be used in orchards," says Walsh. "But there aren't any grower recommendations regarding what data needs to be collected and what kind of data is most useful, depending on the grower objective."

(Source: Agriculture and Food News, ScienceDaily.