Welcome to the future of agriculture with remote-controlled helicopters and unmanned aircraft equipped with imaging sensors.

Farmers and technology experts from across the Southeast got a glimpse of the future recently at the Atlanta Chapter of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International’s Unmanned Systems in Agriculture Conference at the University of Georgia Tifton Campus Conference Center.

Unmanned vehicle developers hope the new technologies will make farming more cost effective, and better for society and the environment.

“This unmanned aerial systems conference is really important because it’s highlighting existing technology, which can have immediate impact on agriculture,” said Joe West, assistant dean of the UGA Tifton Campus.

“It’s demonstrating how unmanned aerial systems, which were developed with military applications, are transferring that technology over to agriculture where we’re essentially using those systems as platforms to carry technology to monitor crops and many other things; disease, drought, mineral deficiencies.”

Unmanned autonomous systems are becoming more common place as a tool for farmers, according to the Association of the Unmanned Vehicle Systems, also known as AUVSI.

Scientists are already using remote-controlled helicopters to detect diseases in farmers’ fields. Unmanned helicopters are also popular in Japan where more than 2,300 are used to spray rice fields and keep a close watch on the health of crops.