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4 ways UAVs can aid in manure application

Progressive Dairyman Editor Karen Lee Published on 08 March 2016
UAV bird's-eye view

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones, are growing in popularity month by month. From general consumer interest to industrial applications, this technology is finding its way into our society and ways of doing business.

The agriculture industry has shown interest in UAVs and how they can be applied to various situations. Isaac Lemmenes started using a UAV for his family’s custom forage harvesting and manure application business, Lemmenes Custom Farms LLC, based in Waupun, Wisconsin.

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He purchased it right before manure application season and found it very easy to operate. “I took it out of the package and powered it up,” Lemmenes said. “I haven’t crashed it yet, but I almost put it in a manure lagoon when I lost signal.”

As he spoke at the Professional Nutrient Applicators Association of Wisconsin Annual Meeting in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, in January, Lemmenes said he found four practical uses for application of his UAV equipped with a 4k camera that apply to his operation.

1. Employee management

The images and videos it can gather can be of use for employee training. “From the ground you can get a video or a picture, but if you see it from up in the air, it makes so much more sense,” he said.

It also provides a bird’s-eye view to monitor how new or existing employees are doing out in the field. Photographs or videos can be shown to change poor habits and implement new procedures.

2. Safety

An aerial approach can be a safer way to scout a field or map hose routes. Images from the UAV can be used to point out potential hazardous areas that may help eliminate a four-wheeler rollover and possibly save someone’s life, he said.

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It can also be used to visually point out wet spots and other areas of a field to operators without having to physically go out there.

From an environmental safety standpoint, Lemmenes said the videos can show what to do and not do, such as when a hose might be looped too tightly.

3. Jobsite use

In addition to using it for safety checks, a UAV can be used to improve application methods, by tracking manure application from far above the ground.

Another use, which he said might not be as practical, is in monitoring equipment, such as booster pumps and stationary pumps.

“I think what might possibly be the biggest advantage of a drone in manure application is to be able to scout which way you’re going to run the hose,” Lemmenes said. It can be flown from the farm to determine where to run the hose and to check in advance who owns which field with the dairyman by your side.

tractor from a UAV's view

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4. Marketing

The UAV provides great pictures and videos to use in marketing on websites and social media, he said. Intriguing images can be beneficial for advertisements and employee recruitment.

The images also help when showcasing products and educating about practices to new customers.

“The UAV has been great for us,” Lemmenes said. “We don’t have much time on it. I really look forward to next year with it. It’s definitely a tool I think we can use.”  PD

PHOTO 1: A bird's-eye view from a UAV provides a unique perspective for training employees on manure application techniques.

PHOTO 2: One of the four ways Isaac Lemmenes finds a UAV beneficial to his custom harvest and manure application business is by capturing unique photos that can be used to attract new customers and recruit potential employees. Photos by Isaac Lemmenes.

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