Aerial vehicles tested as way to check crop health

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IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) - Idaho State University has received a $150,000 federal grant to develop ways to use unmanned aerial vehicles equipped with specialized sensors to monitor crop health, providing much more than just a bird’s-eye view.

The aircraft allow farmers to monitor a wide range of their fields more quickly, saving time and money, Advanced Aviation Solutions CEO Steve Edgar told the Post Register in a story published Tuesday (http://bit.ly/TghOXW ). The company is working to expand the use of the aerial vehicles in the state.

“A farmer can put a sensor on the (unmanned aerial vehicle) to tell them if there is a lack or water or what bug is eating their crops . then can adjust fertilizers, pesticide or water to combat stress,” he said.

Typically, farmers would need to travel to different parts of a field to get that kind of information.

The aircraft can provide even greater advantages, said Donna Delparte, university project director.

“Remote sensing technologies offer the potential to protect U.S. food security by providing rapid assessments of crop health over large areas,” she said in a statement.

The air technology is being tested on eastern Idaho farms, flying about 2,400 acres every week scanning crops.

Advanced Aviation Solutions, based in Star in southwest Idaho, wants to develop the industry, saying it would energize the economy.

“We have the airspace, sparsely populated areas, facilities and everything you need to develop aerospace as an industry in Idaho, which can offer very high paying jobs in the future,” Edgar said.

On another front, the company is working with state researchers on aerial mapping of pygmy rabbit habitats near Leadore in central Idaho with the University of Idaho. Edgar said the company is also helping show search-and-rescue agencies, geological surveys and other companies on best to use aerial vehicles.

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Information from: Post Register, http://www.postregister.com

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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