Unmanned aerial systems (UASs), which include unmanned aerial vehicles commonly known as drones, are one of the hottest topics in agriculture. These remote-controlled machines have seen a meteoric rise in popularity among farmers, who believe UASs could be the next tool to increase crop production and reduce costs.

UAS use has received so much interest, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture is devoting an entire tour to the subject at the Milan No-Till Crop Production Field Day on Thursday, July 24. The tour will include three presentations, including a field demonstration that will give participants an up-close look at the technology in action. 

According to program presenter Michael Buschermohle, professor, UT Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science, one major application that will have immediate benefits is crop scouting. “With a UAS, producers or crop consultants can stand on the edge of the field with a ground station and see what a camera sees as it flies over the field,” says Buschermohle. “UASs will enable you to more effectively scout the entire field in a fraction of the time it takes to do it on foot.” 

Buschermohle adds another application that has great potential is using UASs as a remote-sensing tool to acquire high-resolution spatial data. UASs are capable of collecting hyper resolution visible, multispectral and thermal imagery for application in precision agriculture management. Collectively, this technology could allow producers to assess crop damage, determine soil moisture levels and more accurately apply fertilizer and pesticides. 

Robert Freeland, also with UT Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science, will round out the program with information on various models of UASs, as well as available software for processing collected data. Freeland will also cover current local, state and federal regulations with regard to UAS use. 

The Milan No-Till Field Day begins at 7 a.m. on Thursday, July 24, at the AgResearch and Education Center at Milan. There is no cost to attend. For directions to the site, and to see the complete field day program, go tomilan.tennessee.edu or call 731-686-7362. You can also check out the Milan No-Till Facebook page for the latest updates. 

The AgResearch and Education Center at Milan is one of 10 research facilities operated by the UT Institute of Agriculture. In addition to its agricultural research programs, UTIA also provides instruction research and public service through the UT College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, the UT College of Veterinary Medicine and UT Extension offices in every county in the state.