精耕农业这个想法诞生于上世纪80年代，而现代科技正以当时无法想象的方式使其成为现实。究其原因，我们可以再次把目光投向天空，或者问问康特妮·罗宾森（Cortney Robinson），她所在的ISO/TC20/SC16ISO/TC 20/ SC 16专为无人飞行系统（UAS）也就是我们常说的无人机制定标准。
Precision farming takes off
Companies created quite a buzz this year with the announcement that their plans to use drones to deliver packages are becoming a reality. As the technology continues to evolve, the number of users of, and uses for, unmanned aircraft systems has risen to new heights. The need for an International Standard is clear, but what’s the link with farming?
More than seven billion lives depend on humankind’s unique ability to scratch into the shallow surface of our planet and grow plants. And though the crops are firmly rooted in the soil, the mysterious thing that makes it all work can only be grasped by looking to the skies.
Water and carbon dioxide are transformed by plants into sugar (and water), fuelled by the power of the sun. But ask the farmers who make their living from this miracle and their take on it is probably more down to earth: while sunshine and air for photosynthesis are free, labour, fuel, sprays and fertilizers comprise a substantial cost. Often, even water comes at a price, both financially and environmentally. In order for farmers to stay in business and keep up with our burgeoning population (in fact, it has grown by about 50 people since you started reading this), we have to use these resources better, and that’s where precision agriculture comes in.
The idea has been around since the 1980s, but current technology is making this a reality in ways that most of us couldn’t have imagined back then. For the answers, we can look to the skies again. Or rather to Cortney Robinson, Secretary of technical committee ISO/TC 20’s subcommittee SC 16, which standardizes unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or drones as they’re more commonly known.
Robinson, Director of the Civil Aviation Infrastructure at the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), is coordinating a group of experts to create an International Standard for drones – ISO 21384. The scope of their work is ambitious, with three parts covering general specifications, product systems and operational procedures, respectively. It’s worth noting that Part 1 specifies general requirements for UAS for civil and commercial operations only; it does not cover state or military use, though governments are welcome to apply them.
The general specifications of Part 2 give requirements for the design, manufacture and continued airworthiness of any UAS, which, as you’ll see later, is a term that covers more than just the drone itself. ISO 21384-3 will specify the requirements for operational procedures. The time frame is demanding, with publication currently scheduled for 2018.
For industry insiders, an International Standard can’t come soon enough. “The cost of unmanned aircraft has come down dramatically and that’s contributed to an explosion in their popularity with both hobbyists and commercial operators,” Robinson explains. This is clear to see from the register that the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) maintains for all flying vehicles. “Although voluntary for smaller drones, most enthusiasts choose to register their drone under the ‘know before you fly’ scheme, and the numbers have jumped dramatically. The total number of US-registered aircraft [manned and unmanned] surged from around 260 000 aircraft in 2015 to more than 750 000 UAS alone today.”
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