2. Farming

Deaths per 100,000: 41
Death Toll Over Ten Years: 4,400
Associated risks: Being crushed by machinery, Poisoning, Stampeding livestock
Estimated Cost Per Death: $6,500+

The advancement of aerial technology is closely related to farming, another of America’s most dangerous jobs for several reasons. Traditionally, ranchers use heavy machinery that can entangle or crush workers. They work long hours nearly all year, causing burn-out that can reduce judgment and lead to careless decision-making. Farmers also work with a variety of chemicals that can reach toxic levels after repeated exposure. Furthermore, they frequently run the risk of being trampled by livestock or trapped in grain silos or elevators. According to CNN, there are about 40 deaths per 100,000 farmers every year1.

Farms are also financially costly to maintain. Each acre that a farmer works costs about $475 per year, and the median salary is just $55,00012. Farmers must also pay their workers to plant and harvest all the crops with the best possible quality. These numbers add up quickly. High maintenance costs have many farmers looking for a lower-cost solution. They need an alternative to manual labor that can work long hours without becoming fatigued and losing focus.

   
A UGV sprays crops with pesticides13

Farmers would profit immensely by using robots as their main laborers. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can fly over fields to perform both crop-dusting duties and take pictures or video to track plant growth.  Additionally, these robots can track development and scan for diseases within crops, allowing farmers to locate problems before an entire field is affected by disease. Robots can also perform more delicate procedures, such as picking fruit or harvesting. They will employ selective harvesting by detecting the ideal time to harvest each plant. The robots will also provide lower operating costs and labor needs, as they are obviously unpaid and can work at any time. Associated sunk costs for purchasing the robot may be high, but they require minimal maintenance to keep them running with top quality14.

Opportunity for Robot Applications
Technology Available?
Yes.
Approximate Cost/Unit: $86,000

Projected Number of Lives Saved Over Ten Years: 2,904

Farming presents substantial opportunity for robotic applications. UAV/UGVs that perform routine maintenance on crops could drastically reduce costs for businesses, as well as save thousands of lives. The technology required for many of these operations is already available and implemented in some regions, so the possibility for growth in this industry is high. We rank farming second on our list.


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12 swmnhay. "Figuring up how much it would cost to run hay farm? Net income?." HayTalk. N.p., 10 Apr 2010. Web. 31 May 2012.
13 Vine Guard Robotics for Agriculture. N.d. Photograph. vhxn.comWeb. 31 May 2012.
http://www.vhxn.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/VineGuardRoboticsForAgriculture.jpg.
14 "Farm of the Future." National Robotics Engineering Center. Carnegie Melon, n.d. Web. 31 May 2012.
http://www.rec.ri.cmu.edu/markets/farm.pdf