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August 19, 2014 10:00 PM

Drones Take Flight Over Farms

It's the backbone of South Dakota's economy.

Agriculture generates more than $25 billion-dollars annually and creates more than a hundred-thousand jobs. From livestock, to grains, to equipment, it's a booming industry.

Farming has come a long way over the years. With today's modern technology farmers can better manage their crops and livestock. The latest piece of equipment looks more like a toy than a piece of machinery. This drone is now being used in farming practices across the country.  Equipped with a small camera it flies over fields and pastures taking pictures.

"What we want to do is scout crops with them, scout cattle with them. Fly fields, find infestation, whether that's a pest or an insect and evaluate that situation and take action," Matt Rohlick of Haug Implement of Willmar, Minnesota said.

The phantom quad copter is just one of the drones that's being demonstrated this week at DakotaFest in Mitchell.

The RF 1 is a much larger drone that can fly farther distances and is also more expensive.

"They don't need to go out and get the biggest and most advanced thing, they need to find something that works well for their size of operation and what they're comfortable with," Phil Ellerbroek of Roboflight said.

Joe Johnson of Mount Vernon helps his family farm.  He thinks a drone would help farmers save time and money.

"Spraying is a big part of that, if you spray on time and if you have the equipment to know what to spray, how much to spray and where to spray, you could save money on chemicals, water and labor," Johnson said.

One important thing farmers need to keep in mind when using the drones is they need to abide by FAA regulations.

"The main thing is you want to keep the drone with in line of sight, below 400 feet and over your own areas of land of operations," Ellerbroek said.

Operations that could be run more efficiently in the future, one drone at a time.

The drones range in price from $2,000 to $20,000. There'll be two more demonstrations at DakotaFest Thursday, Aug. 21, at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

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