LSU AgCenter Investigates Use of Drones in Crop Monitoring

LSU AgCenter drone UAV

Charles Malveaux, LSU AgCenter research associate, with a drone. Photo by Bruce Schultz.

Louisiana State University’s Agriculture Center (AgCenter) exists to develop and deliver practical, useful, life-enhancing information to the citizens of Louisiana.

Researchers are currently trying to determine if using drones to monitor crops can be economically beneficial to farmers.

“We are investigating the use of UAVs to see what the capabilities are,” said Randy Price, an LSU AgCenter engineer. “From what we can tell, the technology appears to be promising.”

According to Price, the AgCenter has three drones with plans to expand the fleet. Typical unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with autopilot cost between $5,000 and $75,000 so the AgCenter has decided to build their own at a fraction of the cost, around $1,500 per drone.

Mike Strain, commissioner of agriculture and forestry for Louisiana said, “They’re mainly being used for overhead, low altitude surveillance to gather information and to better the operation of the farm. It’s one more part in a very high tech tool chest that the farmer can utilize to increase the overall efficiency.”

Drones can be used in agriculture to measure the health of plants, decrease costs, become more efficient and more environmentally friendly.

After the recent freeze, drones were used to check on the damage in a sugarcane field nearby. Photographs of the field were taken by the UAV and then examined later on the ground.