Lee Hathcock of Mississippi State University launches a Robota Triton unmanned aerial vehicle. (Beth Wynn)

Researchers are investigating how unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can be used commercially in agriculture. Their size, cost and capabilities make UAVs useful for a wide range of jobs. Mississippi State University researchers are already using these vehicles, and many others are examining their potential applications, including flying a camera on a drone to get instant aerial views of research fields.

A flyover could identify problem spots in extremely large fields, and then researchers, crop consultants, or farmers could go to the identified areas and examine them carefully to make proper diagnoses. The information gathered by soil-moisture sensors could be compared to the information that could be gathered by drones.

Technology already exists to allow producers to make very specific chemical applications to their fields with farm equipment. UAVs can help them target these applications even more precisely.