Photos: Drones Comb Illinois Farmland As Storm Season Arrives | WGLT

Photos: Drones Comb Illinois Farmland As Storm Season Arrives

May 23, 2019

At the edge of the McLean County fairgrounds, a sound like a swarm of bees filled the air.

However, those were no bees. Drones darted around in the sky Wednesday morning as 20 Country Financial crop adjusters prepared for storm season.

In the past, you would see crop adjusters walking fields to determine damage after a storm, but now they’re using drones. Since 2014, Country Financial has been using drones for crop adjusting. Back then, there were only three pilots; now there are 20 certified pilots.

Country says the use of drones has sped up the process of crop adjusting from hours to minutes.

“Back in the day, whenever there might be a wind claim (or) storm claim, we’d have to send maybe four to five adjusters onto a 200-acre field and walk it blindly,” Brad Clow, crop operations manager for Country Financial, said during Wednesday’s annual training at the fairgrounds.

Even as early as when the crop emerges, claims can be made. Even a light hail could damage the crop.

“We’re having some concerns with farmers even being able to get in to plant an initial crop,” Clow said, referring to the wet spring. With the recent storms and more on the way, Country Financial will likely be seeing more claims.

Customers will be able to see what the adjuster sees by viewing the iPad screen controlling the drone, ensuring the whole field has been covered.

The Federal Aviation Administration has put in place what’s called a 333 exemption, which Country Financial requires for its pilots. This exemption “grants (unmanned aircraft) operators safe and legal entry into the (National Airspace System), thus discouraging illegal operations and improving safety.”

With plenty of regulations put in place for drones, Bloomington-based Country has someone in charge of keeping up to date with regulations, attending seminars and conferences.

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