In the past few years of warfare, the unmanned drone has risen to the forefront of military technology. It has also, though not surprisingly, risen to the forefront of military controversy in that time. However, the unmanned drone has recently added a far less controversial and more delicious item to its repertoire. Relatively small, computer-driven drones armed only with cameras are being utilized by farmers in California to survey vineyards and improve their wine. In order for a farmer to get a good idea of when and how to harvest his or her grapes, the farmer must have a good idea of what his or her fields look like. Walking through the fields and examining the plants close-up is a good place to start, but to truly see the state of a field, it needs to be examined as a whole. And the only way to do this is with a bird’s eye view.
In the past, farmers would hire manned planes or helicopters by appointment to photograph their crops. This is an expensive and inconvenient practice after several growing seasons, so some farmers are now purchasing drones to help them get a better handle on the grapes. A company called 3D Robotics offers specialized field-mapping drones specifically designed to aid farmers. The drone has a route programmed into it which it then follows as it takes pictures at just the right spots to end up with a complete map of the field. A farmer at DRNK Wines used the drones to discover a fertile crescent in his field that he previously did not know about. I think that these drones are a good thing in that they allow farmers to keep their operation independent. However, they could very well end up putting a few pilots out of a job.