How An Idaho Drone Company Can Help Farmers Save Crops

Apr 23, 2015

One Idaho start-up company is making strides in the drone industry, and has begun flying the unmanned aircrafts to help farmers get the best possible yield. The goal is to accurately and quickly assess problem crops early on – ones that could be weather damaged or needing more water – so the farmers can make adjustments.  

Images from drones equipped with high-tech cameras and sensors can show hard-to-access problem areas, potentially saving farmers time and money.

Bitner Vineyards in Canyon County, Idaho is able to use drone technology from Advanced Aviation Solutions to accurately assess crops that need attention.
Credit Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Advanced Aviation Solutions is based in the north Idaho town of Hayden, and earlier this year it was the first company in the U.S. to receive an exemption to fly drones for agricultural use.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) decides what companies are allowed to use drones, and for what purpose.

Steve Edgar is the owner and founder of Advanced Aviation Solutions and its sister company Empire Unmanned. He says the industry is growing rapidly, and his company is well-suited to be based in Idaho because of the range of potential uses.

“We see a lot of applications in Idaho," says Edgar. "And that’s the unique thing; if you look at where we want to employ the vehicles – what industries – its Idaho emphasis items if you will. Between forestry, water, rangeland and agriculture.”

Besides being able to identify crops that are in trouble, UAS technology can assess things like chlorophyll concentration, moisture levels, weather damage and yield. The drones are 1.5 pounds with a three-foot wingspan.

Edgar says the two Idaho companies employ about 10 people right now. He expects that number to grow to 75 employees in a year. 

Find reporter Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill

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