North Dakota will soon get a glimpse of a future where farmers can monitor their crops using small, flying drones. That's because the US Department of Transportation's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has given the state the go-ahead to start using its unmanned aerial systems (UAS) test site. It's the first one to become operation among the six commercial UAS testing program sites chosen by Congress in 2013. The state's Department of Commerce will hold two rounds of flight tests using Draganflyer X4ES drones not only to monitor crops, but also to test soil quality. These are relatively small, helicopter-like machines, which measure 36.25 inches in length and width and are equipped with Sony cameras.
While the mission's main goal is to prove that drones can be used for those aforementioned farming tasks, authorities will also be collecting safety data from the flights.
According to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta:
These data will lay the groundwork for reducing risks and ensuring continued safe operations of UAS. We believe the test site programs will be extremely valuable to integrating unmanned aircraft and fostering America's leadership in advancing this technology.
In other words, missions conducted in the six test sites will determine the future of UAS in the country and perhaps even to make the public realize that not all drones are harbingers of doom. The Draganflyer X4ES drones will take to the skies on the week of May 5th at North Dakota State University's Carrington Research Extension Center and then again at Sullys Hill National Game Preserve this summer. But, as the permit to operate the site is good for two years, the drone will likely roam more Peace Garden state fields in the future.