Originally posted on expouav.com on November 21, 2016, by Jeremiah Karpowicz

Few people doubt the impact drones could have on the farm, partly because there are so many ways the technology can be leveraged. Whether it’s simple scouting or doing physical tasks like spraying a field, drones can represent an increase in efficiency and effectiveness that could inherently change the way farmers approaches a given task.

However, the details around exactly how growers of all types and sizes can take advantage of such capabilities are things that still need to be worked out at several different levels. One of those is the regulatory level, and while many growers in the United States had been waiting for Part 107 before taking a real look at the technology, implementation under that rule is a completely separate topic. Considering how drones can and will impact different types of farmers that are growing different crops in different parts of the world illustrate the further challenges that lie ahead.

To get a better understanding around how professionals are sorting through those challenges, I connected with Norm Lamothe, Head of UAS Agriculture at Deveron UAS. The company provides a reliable and affordable imagery solution to growers, and Norm is leading Deveron’s expansion of UAV imagery services across the province of Ontario. Being able to effectively utilize UAV technology is about something much bigger for Norm though, since he also manages his family’s 500-acre farm near Peterborough, ON.

Jeremiah Karpowicz: Tell us a little bit about your company. In what ways are you able to make imagery easy?

Norm Lamothe: Our company was born through the opportunity to provide the agriculture sector with a solution of gathering timely, in-season data through the use of remote sensing.  The technology isn’t new, but the ability to onboard that technology in a UAV, and capture the information in an efficient manner is.  Farms are getting larger, and it is becoming more difficult to scout all of a producer’s acres in a timely fashion.  Our technology now allows that.  We make imagery easy through the efficiencies of a pilot and UAV network that can gather data at scale in a cost effective manner.

What services do you provide, and how do they make your offerings stand out?

Our company offerings provide the latest and greatest of what the marketplace has to offer.  We provide solutions through plant health analysis, disease/pest management through timely gathering (and transfer) of data. Our goal is to turn around data within 48 hours, and can do so in less time where needed.    We also provide water and nutrient management solutions through collaborations with agronomists and leading analytics partners.    We are agnostic in sense that we remove the risk of the hardware, sensor, software, analytics pairing challenges that are present if you are an individual grower who purchases as UAV and are tied to a certain sensor and software solution.  We have the ability to work with a variety of industry leaders who provide the best solutions.

You mention that every field is different, and I imagine variation is an issue you run into quite often since you’re dealing with farms and farmers that have different crops, sizes, etc. How does that impact your approach?

Our services, and the solutions we provide are tailored to each unique situation we face and request we receive.  Whether we are working with an industrial producer, a crop protection company, a co-operative or an individual grower, we listen to each of their challenges and look for opportunities to identify where solutions through the use of remote sensing exist.

Has Part 107 changed the conversations you’re having with farmers in America? What can you tell us about the regulatory environment in Canada?

Canada was a leader in the UAV regulatory environment out of the gate while the US was in a moratorium.  The US has now surpassed Canada in accelerating the adoption of UAV use for commercial purposes.  This will accelerate the opportunity for our network to enter the US market through collaborations with US companies that are looking to grow their businesses with the Deveron family.   We still feel that scale and the enterprise customer will not affect our business goals.   The regulatory environment in Canada is also changing.  It will favour commercial operators like Deveron who have demonstrated a professional and safe track record.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve seen growers run into in terms of being able to utilize UAV technology? Does that impact whether or not they look to utilize a service provider or work to figure out the technology for themselves?

Growers still need to have the desire and equipment at the farm level to react to the information that UAV technology can provide.  We provide a very affordable solution to anyone who is looking to explore the use of the technology in their operations.  We will soon be releasing a Case Study where we will demonstrate that there is a cost savings of 60% or more to hire a service based company versus purchasing their own hardware and managing all that goes along with that.

What are some of the “simple” ways that drones can be utilized on the farm?

Drones are a great scouting tool.  They offer a very efficient way of gather data over a large scale operation.   A simple view from above give a much different perspective. There are plenty of examples of best management practices that you can see from the air that you cannot see from the truck.

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