Integrating Drones and Precision Agriculture with Beef Production


Integrating small unmanned aerial systems and precision agriculture with beef production systems

Member Institution:
Virginia Tech

Blacksburg, VA, USA

Key Experts:


John McGee

Role: Project Leader

Key Words

Unmanned Aerial Systems
Precision Agriculture


The goal of this project is to introduce innovative technology that can be adopted by Extension, local producers, and other stakeholders to support increased efficiencies in ag operations, especially beef cattle production. The small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS) regulatory landscape changed dramatically with the FAA’s revisions that took place over the summer, 2016. As a result of these regulatory changes, Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) has been developing in-house expertise to support sUAS applications across program areas to support an array of needs by managers and producers. Precision agriculture is one of these potential application areas.

Based on findings from this project, VCE agents and specialists, as well as other stakeholders, will better understand some of the limitations, challenges, and benefits associated with the use of sUAS to support agricultural management. Using this information, we will be able to refine future programming efforts that can be used to support agricultural producers not only across the state but in other regions of the U.S. and beyond.

Project Updates:

We traveled to the Southwest Virginia Agricultural Research and Extension Center and presented at their annual Forage Field Expo. We had a great turnout with over 100 livestock producers. We held a ‘drone overview’ presentation, a Q&A session, a poster presentation, and a couple of small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS) demonstrations. Based on feedback from our sUAS presentations this summer, producers do have an interest about sUAS and how/if this technology can support their needs. There is a significant amount of interest in the potential of sUAS by cattle producers and by organizations that are supporting cattle producers. We are selecting producers for our pilot programs [August 2017].

Also of note, we have received some seed funding to develop short sUAS online tutorials. These tutorials can be used as online training resources for individuals who are studying for the FAA’s Remote Pilot Knowledge Test (AKA FAA Part 107 Exam).

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