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Trimble rolls out crop-scouting drone

Jeff Caldwell 01/22/2014 @ 10:04am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

Unmanned aerial systems (UAS), or drones, have taken a big step toward more widespread adoption and use in agriculture with the recent announcement that a major player in the precision ag business is adding them into their product and service portfolio.

Officials with Trimble announced this week they're introducing a drone system for aerial imagery for scouting for pests, weed pressures, and nutrient deficiencies. The comapny's UX5 system is a fixed-wing drone that can fly up to 50 mph and can cover just shy of a section of land in about 50 minutes, recording imagery down to about 2-inch resolution. An onboard camera records both visual and near-infrared imagery, a company report says.

"The system can locate cattle and their available forage over large areas, measure crop height, and generate topographic maps and models for land leveling and drainage applications," according to a Trimble report. "The Trimble UX5 system can capture a variety of images to be processed postflight. The output of a single flight provides geo-referenced precision images, a digital surface model (DSM) showing elevations as a color image, and a dense 3D point cloud that includes elevations."

Use of the Trimble drone -- for which a price tag has not been released -- is, like other UAS, not yet approved everywhere and is subject to regulation "defined by local civil aviation authorities," a report shows.

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