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How Drones Are Helping Wineries Weather California's Drought

Technology could help improve wine production.


As California winemakers grapple with drought and unpredictable El Niño weather patterns, companies are developing technologies that might help improve vineyards' yields through precision farming. Fortune reports that California winemaker Hahn Estate is working with a North Carolina-based company, PrecisionHawk, and Verizon to monitor the health of its vineyards using data gathered by unmanned drones.

The five-pound drones fly above the vines and collect information about the crop's canopy growth with multispectral images to determine the crops overall density. Meanwhile, on the ground, sensors installed by Verizon deliver information about soil temperature and moisture. Using specialized software, farmers can then synthesize the crop data and receive recommendations on how to adjust their practices to improve the grape harvest. "We're getting a clearer picture of what's going on at the vineyard," says Andy Mitchell, Hahn Estate's viticulture director. "We want to apply this to all of our acres."

While drones might one day revolutionize the wine industry, they've already been making a mark in the world of restaurants and food delivery. TGI Friday's launched a holiday promotion in December 2014 featuring mistletoe-carrying drones. Then, last February, a restaurant in Singapore opted to replaces most of its servers with drones outfitted with "anti-collision algorithms" for safety. Liquor company, Southern Comfort, also ambitiously launched an unmanned drone liquor delivery service last summer in select cities.

Watch a promotional video featuring Hahn Estate, below:

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