PORTLAND -- While Americans are abuzz about Amazon's plans to use self-guided drones to deliver packages, most future unmanned aircraft may operate far from large population centers.
Experts point to agriculture as the most promising commercial market for drones because the technology is a perfect fit for large-scale farms and rural areas where privacy and safety issues are less of a concern.
Already, farmers, researchers and companies are developing unmanned aircraft equipped with cameras and sensors to survey crops, monitor for disease or precision-spray pesticides and fertilizers.
Farmers say the technology could revolutionize agriculture by boosting crop health, improving field management practices, reducing costs and increasing yields.
The Federal Aviation Administration does not allow drones' commercial use. But next year, the agency plans to propose a rule for small unmanned aircraft.