Drone U podcast: Can the U.S. catch up in drone agriculture?

Drone U Podcast: Can the U.S. Catch Up in Drone Agriculture?

Drone U Podcast: Can the U.S. Catch Up in Drone Agriculture?

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Dec. 18 2013 1:09 PM

Drone U Podcast: Can the U.S. Catch Up in Drone Agriculture?

A drone made by a French startup to give farmers information about how to optimize their fields.

Photo by ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images

Every week on Future Tense, we highlight a talk from Drone U in which a leading thinker speaks about what our drone future may look like. Drone U is produced in cooperation with the New America Foundation. (Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State University.)

This week, Drone U features a podcast from Jeff Lorton, Yamhill County, Ore.'s part-time economic development manager and the organizer of a recent precision-farming conference that focused on the potential of drones in agriculture. Lorton highlights why farmers are well suited to incorporate this new technology into their repertoire, and how the United States is behind the rest of the world in its application.


The most widely used civilian commercial drone in the world is the Yamaha RMAX, versions of which have been performing aerial spraying of crops for 30 years in Japan. The United States is beginning to play catch up to the rest of the world, where Lorton argues agriculture is undergoing a revolution similar to the transition from analog to digital computing. With the recent announcement by the FAA that the agency is willing to allow the immediate use of drones by farmers flying over their own property, will agrarian counties like Yamhill become the vanguard for new drone applications in the United States? 

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Timothy Reuter is co-creator of Drone U and the founder of the D.C. Area Drone User Group. He also works on issues of international development.

Nabiha Syed is a media lawyer in New York and a visiting fellow at the Yale Law School Information Society Project.  She is the co-founder of DroneU.