Virginia Tech helps farmers save time with new farmhand, a drone

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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) We've seen drones help first responders, deliver food and medicine, and give us a birds eye view of our surroundings.

Now they're being used on the farm and could help farmers save time.

Instead of driving out in a field to check on animals, one quick flight over a flock of sheep could show the farmer if they need food. It allows farmers to cover more ground.

Drones are taking off in the farming industry. Views from the sky show a different perspective on the ground. It's purpose puts a 21st century spin on an age-old trade.

"I look at this as a way drones can be used for farmers who have disabilities. Instead of that farmer having to go out and walk all morning or take a vehicle to check his livestock, this project has proved that drones can be useful," said Dan Swafford, a project associate with the Virginia Cooperative Extension.

Dan Swafford is behind this research and is helping make it a reality.
A Virginia Tech study looked into how livestock react to a drone flying overhead. It found, after time, animals didn't mind the drone.
It gives farmers a new farmhand in the sky.

"They can sit on the back porch, push a button, and the drone will go out and check different fields," Swafford said.

Adding newer technology to an old career isn't an accident. Drones are projected to make a big impact in agriculture in other ways also. Tech is brainstorming ways to keep younger people interested in farming by adding new tools.

"The future of agriculture is our youth and if youth are excited about the future, that makes life a whole lot easier for us," Swafford said.

Swafford is a former Christiansburg High School agriculture teacher and is showing drones and their possibilities to 4-H students.

He's applying for grants that allow students to test drones at their family farms.