Advances in drones technology offer tremendous possibilities for applications in agriculture and natural resources management. Today's drones are easier and safer to fly than ever, and multi-spectral sensors have come down in size, weight, and price. However the jump from drone hobbyist to drone operator for scientific and resource management missions can be enormous. Among the many additional skills required are a deeper understanding of remote sensing and photogrammetry, higher standards for regulatory compliance and safety, data processing and management, flight planning, quality control, and domain specific analyses. The University of California Division of Agriculture of Natural Resources (UCANR) is the home of Cooperative Extension in California, whose mission includes developing research and technology for California's growers and land managers. Through the Informatics and GIS Statewide Program (IGIS), UCANR has developed a set of best practices for drone data collection for specific mission objectives, including monitoring changes in rangeland vegetation, measuring the health and structure of forests, hydrological modeling, and measurement of crop and soil conditions. To scale-up capacity for drone research and management, UCANR has also been implementing workshops on drone technology and science, and forging collaborations with industry and other branches of the University of California system. In this paper, we review examples of drone science in California's agricultural and natural landscapes, discuss institutional challenges and strategies for developing new applications of drone technology, and preview future plans and initiatives.
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