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Drone Technology Being Used to Look for Irrigation Leaks
September 6, 2016
A drone whirred to life in a cloud of dust, then shot hundreds of feet skyward for a bird's-eye view of a vast tomato field in California's Central Valley, the nation's most productive farming region.
Equipped with a state-of-the-art thermal camera, the drone crisscrossed the field, scanning it for cool, soggy patches where a gopher may have chewed through the buried drip irrigation line and caused a leak.
In the drought-prone West, where every drop of water counts, California farmers are in a constant search for ways to efficiently use the increasingly scarce resource. Cannon Michael is putting drone technology to work on his fields at Bowles Farming Co. near Los Banos, 120 miles southeast of San Francisco.
Beyond California, drones are becoming fixtures on farms in places such as Canada, Australia, South Africa and Latin America as they become more affordable and easier to use, said Ian Smith of DroneDeploy, a San Francisco-based industry leader in drone software development.