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Drone Technology Grows – May Help Malaysian Oil Palm Plantations

In 2014 investment in drone start-up companies doubled to over $100 million, according to CB Insights, and global spending on drones could top $100 billion over the next ten years as commercial uses, including those in agriculture, expand, according to BI Intelligence.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), however, has yet to act finalize regulations regarding the use of drones in the U.S. and despite issuing draft rules last month, will likely take at least one more year to make rules official. This has allowed overseas companies operating in countries with looser regulations to seize opportunities and get in front of the U.S. in attracting money, innovation and development. UK-based Sky Futures has seen its business soar 700% in the past year, for example, and BioCarbon Engineering, also in the UK, plans to use drones to plant germinated seeds for reforestation. New Zealand-based Martin Aircraft tripled in value in the first days after listing last month. Meanwhile, Japan’s government is planning to fast-track new regulations that would benefit its drone industry.

Now that drone technology has taken off, the real opportunity, say many in the industry, is in expanding the enabling technology’s ability to help make sense of the data collected for the end-user. In Singapore, Garuda Robotics has been using drones to map the boundaries of palm oil plantations, and has developed drones that can measure the moisture in individual trees. The company is working on developing methods of using this data to extrapolate the overall health of the trees and estimate their expected yields.

These developments and others, including drones developed to create real time 3D maps of construction sites to help keep projects on schedule and cameras to track packs of stray wild dogs to protect agricultural operations, would be difficult to advance under the FAA regulations.

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Lynda Kiernan is Editor with HighQuest Group Media and of the Oilseed & Grain News. If you would like to submit a contribution for consideration, please contact Ms. Kiernan at lkiernan@highquestgroup.com.

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