Investigating drones for mainstream farming

21 August 2014

A Beef + Lamb New Zealand demonstration farm project is drilling down into the workability of the drone for mainstream farming.

While the agridrone has attracted much public interest since Neil Gardyne and son Mark hit the news in 2013, a B+LNZ demonstration farm project is drilling down into the workability of the drone for mainstream farming.

The project team – Neil and Mark Gardyne, technical advisors Aeronavics and AbacusBio scientist Bram Visser – is working on creating a system where piloting and computer skills are not required to obtain a stock count.

To date, the project has made a solid start on automated stock counting, whereby the drone flies to a specific paddock and takes several digital images. While software can count the stock, the team is still working on the logistics of getting the drone to "talk" to the computer.

Another project goal was to monitor stock and water infrastructure – and that goal has been achieved. The drone visits water troughs and alerts the farmer to any issues. It can also detect cast animals, if the drone is flown multiple times a day during lambing.

Alongside the project schedule, the economics of the drone are being explored:

  • What value does the drone create?
  • What is the impact on-farm safety, with the drone reducing the need for additional travel around the farm?
  • And what is the public perception, particularly from the perspective of attracting young people into farming?

Read more about drones in the latest Central Otago farming for profit newsletter (PDF, 388KB)

Watch a video of Mark Gardyne talking about the project at this year's Deer Industry NZ conference

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