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Drones above farmland could make grocery prices fall

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Posted: May 12, 2014 10:03 PM by Ryan Naquin
Updated: May 12, 2014 10:03 PM
Source: WBRZ

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Topics: LSU scientists, farmers' crops, drone, rising costs, agriculture, Charles Malveaux, aircraft, survey farmland, farmers bottom line, Ryan Naquin, Senator Dan Claitor

BATON ROUGE - Scientists at LSU are getting an aerial view of farmers' crops and what they see could help cut down on rising costs.

"I see this as the future of agriculture," researcher Charles Malveaux said.

He designed and built an $8000 aircraft, as well as several others for the university, to survey farmland. With the flip of a switch, he says he can control a farmers bottom line.

"We can cut back on the amount of ag chemicals we are using," he said. "It gives the farmers a bird's eye view of exactly what's going on on their field. They can actually precisely control the amount of agricultural chemicals they are applying and in turn save many millions of dollars."

The drones fly above crops and snap infrared pictures. The images show the amount of nitrogen in the field.

"If we know how much nitrogen is in the crops then we know how much fertilizer we need," Malveaux said.

When farmers harvest thousands of acres, cutting back gives the drone technology the potential to take off for agriculture use. But the drone debate has become heated as lawmakers try to figure out how to regulate them.

"We see that there is dangers also associated with it," Senator Dan Claitor said.

A bill Claitor backed banning drones for personal use died in the Capitol earlier in the session. But, even as a critic, Claitor supports using drones in agriculture.

"The farmer is not going to be taking pictures in my back yard. He is going to be applying chemicals. He's going to be gathering information on water or the dryness or wetness of his field but he's not going to be looking into my back window," Claitor said.

Tuesday, senators will discuss creating a committee to study the use of drones for agriculture.

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