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‘A great way to scout your fields’: Scans done by drones can help farmers identify problems

It’s hard to say if any of the farmers who saw drone demonstrations Wednesday at Empire Farm Days will ever buy one.

However, judging by the reactions of those who stopped by the CNY Drone Works area, they were fascinated with the technology.

“I had some crop damage from wind once in the middle of a field and never knew about it until harvest time,” said Steve Stocking, who came from Vermont to attend the annual event. “If I had one of these, I would have known right away.”

Stocking was one of many farmers who watched John McGraw, co-owner of CNY Drone Works, do demonstrations when it wasn’t raining. McGraw, who retired two years ago after more than 20 years with the Fulton Fire Department in Oswego County, started the business with Sean Falconer, an architect by trade.

“I got into drones about two years before retiring, but I had no idea where this business was going to go,” McGraw said. “Agriculture is a huge market for drones.”

McGraw and his son, Brayden, did several demonstrations for farmers. Brayden flew a smaller drone manually near the demo site, while John took a larger drone out for a mission that went to the far end of the Empire Farm Days layout.

John McGraw’s demonstration was done autonomously. He plugged in coordinates using GPS technology, and the drone took off by itself and went out for four minutes before returning — on its own — and landing right where it started.

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