High-tech approach to help with drought: Drone aims to help farmers water more efficiently

SAN DIEGO - A local man hopes his drone technology will help the agriculture industry – which brings $5 billion a year into San Diego County – during the drought.

"Yeah, it'll cover about 40 acres and fly up 400 feet," said Bill Robertson, who is with StitchCAM.

His company shot footage over a vineyard in Temecula.

"The system goes up and takes a bunch of still images, basically," said Robertson.

It is sensor technology he developed to help growers with water shortages. The images are put together on a tablet.

"It's more of a scientific sensor than a picture," said Robertson.

He added, "We take near infrared imagery with the system and that allows us to see stress plants from healthy plants."

Blue shows areas getting too much water and red shows areas that are not getting enough water and stressed.

"You'd need to go ground truth it and see if the ground's too wet and reduce the water in that area," said Robertson.

The idea on a grand scale would be to help farmers know when to irrigate, so based on the type of crop and the type of soil, the farmers would know how much to irrigate and when.

"It saves the farmer money. It also saves California from this drought," said Robertson.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor released Thursday morning shows nearly all of San Diego County and the state now in extreme drought.

Robertson hopes the high-tech gadget will get off the ground in the coming year by raising $100,000 on the popular website Kickstarter. The estimated cost of each drone is about $2,800.

Robertson will be touring the country hoping to get more support from farmers and growers.

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