FARMING OF THE FUTURE: Drones are easy to operate and have a myriad of uses for farmers, says Mark Fogarty, who uses them for his Casino business Blue Horizons.
FARMING OF THE FUTURE: Drones are easy to operate and have a myriad of uses for farmers, says Mark Fogarty, who uses them for his Casino business Blue Horizons.

Check your herd from the comfort of your veranda

IT'S A hot day. A farmer sits on the veranda, maybe sipping a cuppa tea or a beer. He checks fence lines, keeps an eye on the cattle and has a look at the crops.

No quad bike needed.

The cows need a bale of feed. He instructs his drone to pick one up and drop it in the field.

He does all this without leaving his veranda.

Drone technology coupled with intelligent software is changing the lives of those who work the land faster than we are able to come to terms with this new image of a farmer.

Rules and licensing

Casino's Mark Fogarty is excited about how drones will change agricultural practice.

The legal and licence requirements for drone operators as dictated by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority do not apply to anyone operating a 25kg drone no more than 400 feet above the airspace on their own property.

"The farmer won't have to get on a quad bike. It takes two minutes to learn how to operate a drone," Mr Fogarty said. "The drone can pick up a bag of cement."

Drone uses

Within Australia there are 150 licensed drone operators. Some drones are used as shark spotters, while others are used to lift heavy objects and there have even been the novelty uses such as delivering pizzas.

Rules from CASA stipulate drones must not be used before sunrise or after sunset.

Mr Fogarty is the only person in Australia using drones for funerals. His business, Blue Horizons, disseminates human ash into the ocean via the drone.

It is when Mr Fogarty talks about how drones can change farming that the varied applications of drones can be seen.

Drone courses

North Coast TAFE at Wollongbar has been running aviation courses for five years and this year it is expanding into the remote pilot or drone training.

Aviation course co-ordinator Andrew Trease said expressions of interest were wanted in order to begin a course in semester two this year.

In terms of agriculture, Mr Trease said "the crop analysis mapping is a real advantage for the assessment of crop health, and the information gathered is able to be used for strategic application of treatments or sprays".

"The use of drones will change the amount of product required to improve crops, and also allow farmers to apply product in a very efficient manner," he said.

Information session

Mr Fogarty and Mr Trease plan to run an information session in Casino and are keen for interested people to call them so a date can be set.

Contact TAFE on 66204888, Blue Horizons on 0416279366, or email mark_Fogarty@hotmail.com



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