Drones

KUNC composite illustration / Vectors by Keneeko and Sinisa Maric via Pixabay

As officials chalked up dozens of "mystery drone" sightings to things like reflections on jets at Denver's airport, residents in Colorado and bordering states continue to post grainy videos that they insist are evidence of large drones flying in groups. Meanwhile, a legal expert is voicing concerns about privacy.

An official investigation into reports of large drones flying in groups over the western U.S. plains in the hours after sunset has confirmed nothing illegal or out of the ordinary, a finding of little solace to folks who say the truth is still out there.

From more intense wildfires to prolonged droughts, climate change is impacting the ecology of the American West. That’s got researchers in our region looking at a new way to fight some of these impacts: drones.

These days, drones are everywhere--from the ones you can buy at your local Costco to news drones giving birds' eye views of sporting events. Soon, you'll even be able to get your Amazon deliveries with the company's "Prime Air" drone fleet.

Once A Forgotten Niche, Farm Tech Investing Explodes

Mar 15, 2016
Luke Runyon / KUNC, Harvest Public Media

The Western Farm Show in Kansas City, Mo., is a long way from Silicon Valley.

But here in a huge arena, set in what used to be the Kansas City Stockyards, the high-tech future of agriculture is for sale.

Casey Adams and Scott Jackman, co-owners of Fly Ag Tech, have their large yellow and white drone sitting at center stage in their booth at this huge annual trade show.

Luke Runyon / KUNC, Harvest Public Media

Standing underneath one of his research stations at a Colorado State University experimental farm, Jeff Siegfried is decked out in a green and gold hat and polo shirt, the colors of his alma mater. The 24-year-old easily rattles off the various gadgets he uses to measure soil moisture, plant health, air temperature. His corn field here will play a vital role in his final thesis, figuring out better, more efficient ways of delivering irrigation water to fields.

“We’re using technology to make better management decisions,” he says. “So we’re putting the right input in the right place, at the right time and in the right amount. The studies have to be conducted in such a way that eventually it’s the technology that we could be using in the field.”

Adam Meek / Flickr - Creative Commons

The sponsor of a proposal to put guardrails around the use of drones for non- government purposes asked lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee to delay a vote on the bill Tuesday.

"I would work with members of the committee to make sure it truly protects the privacy of people in the state," said Representative Polly Lawrence (R-Roxborough Park).

The delay came after nearly two hours of testimony that focused on emerging technologies and a person's reasonable expectation of privacy.

KUNC File Photo

It's a busy week under the gold dome. The Governor's oil and gas task force, which was charged with trying to harmonize local oil and gas regulations with statewide interests will soon be wrapping up. Many lawmakers have been holding off on introducing oil and gas legislation until the commission finishes its work.

A debate on drones - one that does not fall along party lines - will get a hearing in the Senate Tuesday. For thoughts on what's happening at the capitol, talked to some of the reporters who work there daily.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

A highly anticipated batch of federal laws governing the use of drones could change the regulatory landscape and lead to an explosion in drone use by farmers.

Farmers see drones as a way to get a birds-eye view of their fields to find problem patches with crops. That information can allow farmers to be more precise with fertilizers and pesticides and, ultimately, save them money. But getting them in the sky without running afoul of federal regulation is proving to be a challenge.

Commercial use of drones is still widely banned in the U.S., though some companies have secured exemptions. Other farmers have gone rogue, flying drones over their property without all the proper permissions, daring federal regulators to put a stop to it. But the new federal rules due out later this year are expected to usher in a new era of farm machinery.

Tucked behind a hill in Sebastopol, Calif., with a 5,400-square-foot cave that holds some 500 barrels of wine, DRNK Wines exudes the quiet charm that a visitor might expect. But the grapes in some of the wines that are sold here are under a growing threat — which is why DRNK's winemaker, Ryan Kunde, can sometimes be seen in various vineyards testing his fleet of drones. Their mission? To one day collect aerial images that will help determine the vines' vigor, ripeness, flavor and harvest dates, which due to rising soil temperatures have inched up in Sonoma County over the past few years.

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