Drones Coming to a Farm Near You

Kevin Shaker_65 x 85drone_051216By Kevin Shaker, Analyst

Federal agencies have a long history of using drones to fulfill missions, starting with the Defense Department using the technology for everything from reconnaissance to combat functions.

And then there’s plenty of civilian agency use of drones– Customs and Border Protection began using drones for surveillance at the Mexican-American border, and the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation has used the technology for law enforcement and domestic protection.

The newest civilian entrant to the drone market is the Department of Agriculture (USDA).

In January 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which regulates drone usage, issued permits allowing commercial drones to be used in agricultural for crop-scouting purposes only. Yet within a year the FAA made it even easier for government-subsidized and registered farmers to have access to drone technology.

They’re also looking to piggyback on using drones for data collection. Michael Valivullah, chief technology officer of USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service, recently said at FedScoop’s Public Sector Innovation Summit that the number of drones in the agricultural industry is expected to increase from 0 in 2015 to 200,000 by the end of 2016.

The sensor effectiveness of drones is much more powerful than that of government-owned satellites and Valivullah said he plans to access drone data through commercial data aggregators.

This means there will be opportunities for tech vendors. Expect a demand in the next few months for database and analytics-enabling IT following USDA drone data collection. You’ll want to focus on how your solution will cut, analyze, interpret, and visualize drone-enabled crop data to help USDA achieve its goals. It’s only the beginning of government drone implementation and you’ll want to be involved as the technology continues to leap, or rather ‘fly’ to the next agency.

Want insight on how to get involved in federal drone-related IT opportunities? Reach out to the immixGroup Market Intelligence team today.

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