Drones are seen by many as a “hobby gadget”, but some local farmers are finding the technology increasingly useful in their day to day operations.
The camera function seems to be the most helpful, and a farmer in the Aberdeen district who makes regular use of his drone commented that he mainly uses it for inspections of water troughs and small herds of animals. With the drone, he can take photos of a herd and count it later on. “Further to that, I assist my workers in gathering sheep and cattle” he explained. “I equip them with radios and direct them to the whereabouts of the animals, which is particularly useful in the bush areas. This enables the farmer to be able to gather the animals in a shorter time. He went on to say that to a limited extend, he also uses it to chase animals, but that is done with caution regarding nearby fences.
Like most technology, the functions available on drones are increasing all the time, and the price has dropped considerably since the early models first came onto the market. Another local farmer commented that he bought one of the early models, and in fact has found that its limited functionality and range have actually meant that he has ended up using it more as a toy!
Later models with infra-red allow expansion to night surveillance and crop management, and can be helpful for security.
Useful hints from the farmer who is successfully using a drone include careful research on the flight time of the batteries, and a range of at least 3 to 4 km from the base. With the extreme heat, and often high winds, that are experienced in the area, it is also important to look for a drone that can stand weather conditions.
Whilst some feel that the size of many Karoo farms and the distances involved are limiting factors, those who have done their research and found models to suit their needs have commented on the great advantages in saving time and effort. The opportunity for scenic photographs of the landscape is an added bonus!