Cab driving local farmers could use drones…?

Last weekend I was riding in a cab with a driver that owned her own local farm.

This may seem strange, but I was in Wisconsin where the cab drivers are nothing of the likes of the sassy, non-talkative Chicago cab drivers.

She picked me up from downtown Madison to take me back to the Greyhound station about 20 minutes away and we got into a good flow of conversation. She asked my why I was visiting and I proceeded to tell her I was visiting a geology exhibit and I was writing a story about it and that I was a science journalism major.

This prompted her question of, “so what do you think about global warming?” I was apprehensive at first because I wasn’t sure if intelligent (maybe not-so-intelligent) discourse was appropriate to have with your cab driver…but I told her that I thought more needed to be done and it’s getting to the point where I’m slightly scared of what was to come if we keep up with our current actions. I was relieved when she agreed with me.

She asked what I thought needed to be done to which I started to explain to her that I was currently reading and writing about cutting down on consumption of ruminant meats such as cattle and sheep. This is when she told me that she owned her own farm with her husband on their small property.

“It’s not much and it’s really easy to take care of,” she told me. But she felt like she was doing her part by eating locally raised meat and produce. I applauded her and told her that I wished their was more like minded people like her around, then I got out of the cab.

On my Greyhound ride back to the city I started wondering why it was so “easy”‘ for her to own her own farm. I didn’t get the chance to ask her what she did or what type of technology she used or if it was all the work done by loving hands. So, I googled it. (note: I didn’t google her, I just googled things local farmers use to make their processes easier.)

I found an article about drones being used on local farms. Whenever I hear the word “drone” I automatically roll my eyes because I picture some future-esque transformer but the farm drone is actually pretty cool and just looks like more of a remote control helicopter than something Shia LaBeouf would be battling. The device has been nicknamed “Phantom” though…so still keeping it a little sci-fi.


(Image courtesy of Jessica Bourque —

What the “Phantom” drone does is count crops, locate tile lines and provide thermal images of livestock. Which in turn saves the local farmers a lot of money.

The drones cost 3,500 dollars each which might be little pricey for a local farmer who drives cabs on the side…but it’s definitely something that could revolutionize local farming practices.

The article notes that, “in about 20 minutes, a farmer can scout about 650 acres of farmland, a task that would take several hours by foot and cost $400 per hour by plane.”

The technology is not fully developed; there are still some privacy and trespassing issues with the Phantom that only allow it to go 400 feet in the air.

But finding this little gadget satisfied my curiosity on how local farmers make their life easier. I’m not sure if my cab driver would ever use something like this on her farm but it’s something that might be more widely used in years to come.

In the meantime, I’m sure she’ll stick to looking at her crops from the ground view and tracking her livestock with her naked eye.

Here’s a link to the original article-

And here’s a video from the drone’s eye view (it’s accompanied by a pretty magical soundtrack)-