Navajo To Use Drones To Monitor Crops
October 11, 2012

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Since 2005, the federal government has awarded at least $12 billion in contracts for drones and drone supplies and maintenance. That includes at least $270 million for U.S. Customs and Border Protection's drone program.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- The Navajo Nation's farming enterprise plans to buy drones as early as next summer to help monitor its crops.

The unmanned aircraft would be used to watch for changes in crops grown by the Navajo Agricultural Products Industry. Project Manager Anthony Valdez said currently they hire contractors to fly over, take photos and use infrared technology to find out how well their land is irrigated or fertilized.

"We’ve done that in the past and it’s been quite expensive," Valdez said. "So this technology we’re hoping would bring costs down."

The drones cost anywhere from $7,000-$20,000. The Navajo farming operation grows potatoes, alfalfa, corn and other vegetables on 72,000 acres south of Farmington, N.M. The tribe-owned enterprise is aggressively seeking to expand the market for its "Navajo Pride" products. It generates $400 million in annual revenue, and employs more than 400 people.