As agricultural drones get easier to fly and ever more automated, the Western Cape department of agriculture this week welcomed a host of recently qualified drone pilots to its ranks.
With the department’s help, the group of students, interns and officials successfully completed the South African Civil Aviation Authority examination to obtain their remote pilot licenses. They were trained by Drone-X, a drone training school approved by the South African Civil Aviation Authority.
Speaking at the wings ceremony Dr Ivan Meyer, the provincial minister of agriculture, congratulated the newly qualified drone pilots on their achievement.
“I am extremely proud of the candidates who have completed their remote pilot licenses. Today’s Wings Ceremony flows from the deliberate decision taken by the Western Cape department of agriculture to embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the use of associated technologies,” says Meyer.
He highlights that the use of drone technology will play an increasing role in optimising agriculture operations, increasing animal and crop production as well as monitoring crop and soil health.
“An increase in productivity will increase the power of our agricultural economy, contribute to economic growth and create greater food security,” says Meyer.
“The use of Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies such as drones provides a range of farming solutions. These include remote measurement of soil conditions, better water management and livestock and crop monitoring.”
Geographical information systems technician, Liezl Mackenzie, intends using her newly acquired skill to enhance her area of expertise.
She says, “I am very excited. I intend using drone technology for data collection; ortho mosaic, Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) maps, elevation models and data collection for the spray drone.”
Agricultural students thank government
An agricultural student, Teneale Marthinus, expressed her gratitude for the investment in her development by the Western Cape government. “I appreciate what they have done for me. This investment prepares me to make a difference in agriculture by revolutionizing my approach to whatever area of interest I may choose to focus on.”
Another B. Agri. student, Barend Smit, intends focusing on data collection and research. “I will be using my remote pilot license for NDVI mapping of vineyards, citrus and other cash crops to determine their plant health. It is vital to determine plant health to maximize productivity and for the early detection of disease and plant stress.”
Thurmarr van Wyk believes that his remote pilot license will assist farmers to monitor crop and livestock conditions by air. “This will allow me to help farmers with a wide variety of applications, such as scouting out new field location, providing quick & easy ways to check small sections of crops and surveying entire fields remotely.”
“Growing the economy and creating jobs is a priority for the Western Cape government. Drone technology creates exciting new career opportunities and its applications will contribute to growing the agricultural economy and establishing new jobs within the sector,” says Meyer.