Economic Potential of Unmanned Aircraft in Agricultural and Rural Electric Cooperatives

The Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) predicts that 80% of the U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) market will be in agricultural and rural areas where cooperatives have a strong presence. Agricultural cooperatives could use UAVs in crop scouting to provide timely high-resolution imagery of crop conditions. Rural electric cooperatives (RECs) could use UAVs to detect line-loss, perform line inspections, and assess storm damage. Our research investigated the level of interest and awareness of these rural cooperatives towards UAVS and analyzed the feasibility of UAV adoption. Surveys were sent to Oklahoma grain and farm supply cooperatives and RECs. The survey investigated the knowledge of and interest in UAVs, and elicited information on crop scouting fees and costs, distribution line inspection costs and preventable line loss. The results indicated a low level of knowledge but a high level of interest in UAV technology. Modeling suggests that UAV applications could be feasible for both REC and agricultural cooperatives. Final regulations from the Federal Aviation Administration, particularly restrictions on line-of-sight operation and altitude appear to be a major impediment to UAV adoption. Our survey results suggest that REC applications would be particularly sensitive to the regulatory structure.

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q13; q16

 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2020-10-28

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