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Reporting on science, technology and innovation in Arizona and the Southwest through a collaboration from Arizona NPR member stations. This project is funded in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.Additional stories from the Arizona Science Desk are posted at our collaborating station, KJZZ:

Drones in Agriculture Projected to Create $32 Billion Market

Rosa Bevington, YCEDA Media Specialist
Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture

International accounting firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers recently projected a 32-billion-dollar market for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle use in the agriculture industry. In Yuma County, farmers have already begun utilizing UAV or “drone” technology in the fields. Maya Springhawk Robnett of the Arizona Science Desk reports…

Drones can help project yields and, with the use of sensors, can detect diseases in plants early on. Drones could also be used to pollinate date palms, a job which in the past has had to be done manually. Last year in Yuma County, they were used to determine how many plants in a field had survived a hard rain storm.

Paul Brierley with the Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture says the value of UAV technology is its ability to gather real-time information quickly and accurately.

"Do you have dry spots that need more water, do you have plants that are stressing because they don’t have enough fertilizer or there’s a disease happening?" Brierley asks.  "And being able to respond quickly and appropriately—it’s really about productivity and maximizing the yield.”

Brierley says drone use is part of a recent revolution geared toward precision in agriculture and says the Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture plans to expand its drone program in the near future.