8 April 2021
Drones could soon help Welsh sheep farmers herd their flocks as well as manage land and crops.
A recent webinar hosted by Farming Connect and delivered by Lantra updated farmers on the progress being made with drone technology and the possibilities that presents to farm businesses.
Sam Cook, of Powys-based aerial photography company Tremio, said drones currently is use in some countries for crop spraying are not permitted in the UK - but that could well change.
This would enable management of difficult to access land in Wales, for the management of bracken for instance.
On productive land it would remove the risk of compaction in wetter conditions and enable spot spraying of small areas.
“Trials of these systems have been implemented in Norfolk and organisations are really pushing for changes in legislation to allow use of these drones in the UK,’’ said Mr Cook.
Another model still at the concept stage is one used for planting seed, which fires seed into the ground.
Drones already in use include those that farmers are utilising for herding cattle and sheep.
“They can never replace a dog but it can be used along with one,’’ said Mr Cook.
Not surprisingly, the weather forecast plays a role in drone use.
“Gusts of wind are a killer for drones, it can cause a loss of control and damage,’’ said Mr Cook.
He advises against flying a drone in fog. “Always keep a drone in your visual line of sight.’’
For farmers looking at using drones on farm, there can be a fine line between personal and commercial use, and issues can arise with aviation and privacy laws.
The rules were revised in January 2021 and there is now little distinction between the regulation of commercial operators and hobbyists.
“It is a criminal offence if rules are broken,’’ said Mr Cook.
In the UK, drones are permitted by law to fly at a height not higher than 120 metres, or 400 feet.
“Any higher and it is verging into airline space,’’ said Mr Cook.
Drones should never be flown within five kilometres of an airport.