Labor shortage is a growing concern with many farmers especially here in Iowa. As a way to help alleviate the stress that comes from not having enough workers, some have turned to technology.

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One piece of technology that is taking flight on and off the field is drones.

Drones on the farm can be used in a number of ways, from spreading fertilizer to monitoring fields.

Spencer Bulman
Spencer Bulman

Spencer Bulman of Waukon Feed Ranch Drone Services says in Northeast Iowa, drones can be especially beneficial because of the difficult terrain that farmers are dealing with.

In certain situations, certain fields it might not make sense to pull in a big piece of equipment and treat it when they know the crop is so tall you might do a little more harm than good. So gives this gives the farmer the option to still get in there do some late-season applications and not hurt the crop.

Bulman works with drones that help spray crops. To do this, he says they map the field, and then the drone will use those boundaries to pick a flight path.

It'll go up it'll spray 20 feet at a time. The new one has an eight-gallon tank on it, so at a two-gallon rate, you're spraying about four acres per fill. It'll come back when it's empty, fill back … Usually, it takes about 30 seconds to a minute to fill back up and it's gone again.

Spencer Bulman
Spencer Bulman

To operate these drones, Bulman says you need to have a Part 107 Drone Piolet License and a Commercial Crop-Dusting License. Then you need the proper credentials for the pesticide you are using.

Now we also have imaging drones that can be used on the field, which is something Bulman is looking into using.

We're looking into using a more using for crop scouting in the spring, getting population counts. Using it for heat maps and stuff like that too as well as just mapping things airily. We could map out a field with a small camera drone and we could then grab that shapefile and bring it over to [sprayer] drones.

The average price for a commercial spraying drone can range from $1,500 to $20,000.

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