Perspective on drones: Are they “taking our jobs?” Here’s a simple answer.
There has been a lot of buzz in recent years about rising technology in terms of drones and unmanned aircraft-type tech in food and farming – also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs.)
But is it something we should worry about? Do you constantly get this question asked but shrug it off because the reality of the entire concept is too much to try to explain?
It’s no secret that the labor force within the agriculture sector has been a struggle. As with many other industries, it can be hard to find good help nowadays. For example – although the H2A program is time-consuming and expensive, farmers and other agriculturalists have had to depend on it to keep their harvests and day-to-day farm operations. However, we are not seeing considerable stress in or decrease in the number of agricultural pilots. This is a crucial outsourced component that naturally helps farmers protect their crops as a solidly built relationship for farm operations. In this instance, drones may or may not offer an additional labor benefit.
Pilots are the tried and true. Since the aerial application industry began in the early 1920s, we have seen the successes of this time and time again. We can count on pilots, and the technology is solid and sound, with plenty of opportunities for aviation and agricultural enthusiasts to come together and get the job done of feeding the world. Aerial application accounts for up to 28% of crop protection product delivery where the aircraft can glide over 140 miles per hour. This is important as some pests and diseases can do serious damage in just a day or two. A drone, or even a multitude of drones, cannot compete with that.
Drones certainly have their place, but what are the strengths and weaknesses of the tech? What are the downfalls, and can drones glide that fast? For starters, drones generally cannot fly as fast as an airplane and also don’t have near the carrying capacity. Agricultural aircraft can hold between 400 and 800 gallons of product. Can your drone do that? Economies of scale matter. Drones would work better for smaller-scale farms, while larger farms can still find substantial benefits in ag aviation. Drones also don’t compare to the larger scale day-to-day longevity factor. What about the product application? Can drones “legally” apply the product at a per acre rate? If so, a 5-gallon per acre application works great for a 2-acre farm on a 10-gallon drone.
People who develop and build drones and tech associated provide many jobs in research and development but still need to be watched and manned if something goes wrong. Planes have nozzles, regulations, and specialty equipment that’s been proven, tested, and confirmed with precision improvement over many decades. With drones being as new as they are, is the technology as sophisticated? Are the drones, which a classified as aircraft, regulated? Can a computer really compete with a human being in the driver’s seat? And what about the drone software – are there more glitches and things that can go wrong? How about charging, batteries, longevity, and software updates? Will farmers get frustrated with having one more piece of computer equipment on the farm that could break down and be held responsible or wait too long to fix to get the job done? There’s an additional learning curve, no doubt. And with approximately 100 years of history within agricultural aviation, the answer becomes quite clear: pilots and aviation experts will likely bounce back quickly should a problem arise.
In conclusion, while agriculture needs all types of technology and multiple avenues to control pests, fertilizer, seed, and more, it shouldn’t upset the Agriculture Aviation industry as they’re likely not going anywhere anytime soon. The human component, efficiency, visual oversight in terms of regulations and training, the overall history of the industry, and so much more show clear advantages to agriculture aviation – especially for global food systems security and feeding the world on a larger scale. Maybe this quick excerpt will help you explain it.