Source: Southern States Cooperative

Southern States Cooperative is hosting an FAA-approved drone demonstration at Grandview Farms in Dunnsville, Virginia on Friday, August 7th from 8:30 - 10:30 a.m. Teaming up with Waypoint Global Solutions, the farm-supply cooperative will demonstrate a fixed-winged Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), or drone, at a 3,600 acre farm owned by local farmer Calvin Haile.

While rulings on drone regulations remained stagnant a year ago, the FAA has recently swooped into action in response to pressure from President Obama, retail giant Amazon, farmers, and other commercial businesses chomping at the bit.

In February, the FAA granted the use of small commercial drones under the condition that the drone remain within the operator’s line of sight. UASs must also remain under 50 pounds in weight and fly at an altitude no higher than 500 feet.

This past June, FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Whitaker provided a testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee regarding the decision of commercial drone use.

"The rule will be in place within a year," Whitaker said. "Hopefully before June 17, 2016."

The eagerness of companies to use UASs is quite justified. Experts estimate that the use of UAS's could amount to an $82 billion market, with agriculture making up one of the largest portions of that market.

“We’re finding that to produce a high yielding crop, we must be much more proactive in how we provide and protect that crop,” said Dave Swain, manager of precision ag technology for Southern States. “With a strategic plan, we can collect imagery provided by a UAS to see potential crop stress even before we are able to see that stress with the naked eye. If we are able to be more proactive in that process, we can alleviate that potential stress before it can affect the yield and quality."

The ultra-sleek black-and-yellow drone flying at the demo is a self-piloted aircraft that uses GPS coordinates to map its route. It captures high-resolution aerial photos that can be transformed into 2D and 3D images.

Southern States currently offers aerial, via airplane, and satellite imagery for growers. With over 1,200 retail outlets spread across 23 states, they provide a wide range of farm and home supplies, including livestock feed, fertilizer, seed, animal health supplies and petroleum products. Farmer-owned since 1923, the Virginia-based cooperative has more than 200,000 farmer-members. For more information, visit