DRONES IN RACING IS NOT SCIENCE FICTION

Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos sparked a media sensation in his recent appearance on CBS’ 60 Minutes when he demonstrated how the company is testing drones, or “octocopters,” capable of delivering products weighing up to five pounds within 30 minutes in urban areas.

Various commercial uses of drones in the United States are fast approaching; the Federal Aviation Administration intends to issue regulations in 2015.

Agriculture, with its open spaces, offers one of the most promising applications for unmanned aerial vehicles. To illustrate, camera-equipped drones can scan fields and pastures for weed infestations and detect rodents and bugs. Herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals can then be applied to problem areas rather than to an entire pasture or field, thereby rendering significant dollar savings. Filmmakers in Europe shot scenes from drones for the movies Skyfall and Smurfs 2; the cost was approximately $200 for a drone as opposed to $2,000 per hour for a helicopter.

It is not science fiction to anticipate drones flying over farms in Kentucky, Florida, or other places where horses are raised in quantity.

Large farms and ranches could also find it beneficial to deploy camera-enabled drones to monitor wide swaths of land and make sure that their horses are secure, just as police departments are integrating drones into surveillance activities and wildlife organizations are dispatching drones to track feral animals in their natural habitats.

In the same way, drones could be used by racetrack stewards to hover near on-track action for a better view than is possible with stationery cameras. Drones could be employed on racing telecasts, too, to provide viewers with unprecedented close-ups.

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International estimates that the commercial drone industry is currently a $14 billion per year enterprise; by 2015, it should grow to at least $82 billion annually. Expect to see some of this spent by racehorse farms and racetracks, as owners and managers devise creative ways to capitalize on the technology.

Copyright 2014 the Blood-Horse. Used with permission.

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