Drones could change life on the farm

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Valley farmers were excited to hear the Federal Aviation Administration approved the agricultural use of drones. (KFSN)

Valley farmers were excited to hear the Federal Aviation Administration approved the agricultural use of drones. The decision has opened up many possibilities for farmers and ranchers.

A drone zipping through the air could give growers a true bird's eye view of their farm. It could tell Jeff Simonian which portions of his nectarine orchard in Fowler were ready for harvest.

Simonian said, "I thought wow this is pretty cool. It's pretty neat actually. The drone gets right in and gets close to the tree, over the tree."

The drone approved by the FAA for ag use was the Yamaha R-MAX. It resembled a small helicopter and could be used for precision spraying of fertilizer and pesticides.

Simonian explained, "Maybe areas where you couldn't get a plane in you could fly in a drone. That little 200 pound drone that could get into areas near power lines or near a mountain."

Not only could drones be used to reach hard to reach places but they could also help a farmer survey their crop.

Insurance agent Albert Rivera has used a drone for crop claims. It has helped him quickly assess damage. With water in such short supply the aerial view has provided great detail.

Rivera said, "One of the things that I see a great potential is with the drought situation. This can really be a fantastic tool for water management."

The sky's literally the limit for the information a drone could provide to a farmer.

Simonian said, "Fly it over your crop for whatever reason. If you want to see if there's insect damage or the size of the crop."

Rivera told us a drone even helped a rancher discover an illegal marijuana grow on his property. "One thing that we've come across is that we can detect trouble spots of a farm a lot quicker than if you'd try to do it from ground level."

Albert hoped the FAA will approve the use of different drones on the farm.

Yamaha does not sell the R-Max drone. It only rents them out. The company said that way it can ensure the unit was being used responsibly and was meeting environmental standards.
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