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Company uses drones to help farmers

An Idaho-grown company is using drones to make it easier for farmers to monitor their crops.

“To find zones within their fields that may or may not be producing, we’ll to try and get them fertilizer rates to get them producing better or maybe cut back on rates because it’s only going to produce so much before the soil is kind of maxed out on its capabilities and nutrients,” said Tyson Coles of Empire Unmanned.

The drone takes still images of farming fields.

Empire Unmanned was the first to receive an exemption from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly commercially to collect data for farmers.

The company sells the service, not the drones.

After a farmer sets up an appointment, licensed pilots fly the drones and take pictures. Then researchers take the images and produce data that gives growers an overview of their crops condition.

There are pilot teams in southeast Idaho, western Idaho and the panhandle area.

Company representatives said it’s all about conserving resources and increasing productivity.

“It’s like lawn service,” said Steve Edgar of Empire Unmanned. “You can hire a lawn service that can do everything in your property or you can say, ‘I only want you to come out and mow once a month.’ It’s your call. it’s an a la carte system — it’s designed to fit your budget, so you can go into the cloud and manipulate your data and see your data and utilize whatever information we give you within a 48-hour time frame. We fly today, within 48 hours that data is available.”

Experts say the need for this is expected to boom over the next few years, and Idaho State University is looking to create a full degree program specializing in this technology.

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