Jervoise Station grazier Darren DJ Jonsson with NQ Dry Tropics Senior Grazing Field Officer Chris Poole.

Jervoise Station grazier Darren DJ Jonsson with NQ Dry Tropics Senior Grazing Field Officer Chris Poole.

Jervoise Station graziers Kerry and Greg Jonsson.

Chad Nowak, UAS Pacific (left) with NQ Dry Tropics Land Management Support Coordinator LDC Rodger Walker and a plethora of drones.

Drones have a big role in agriculture

PEOPLE who work with cattle will be able to muster using a drone, but even the most skilled drone pilots with no cattle nous will fail.

That’s the steadfast opinion of veteran helicopter and drone pilot Lyle Gillham, one of the experts who demonstrated the efficacy of drone mustering at each of the two Drones in Agriculture workshops hosted by NQ Dry Tropics recently.

He proved he knew what he was talking about by demonstrating how a lightweight off-the-shelf drone could be used to round up cattle, including beasts that had never seen them before.

At Mt Pleasant Station, Collinsville, and again at Jervoise Station, Greenvale, Lyle was able to introduce the drone to cattle in the paddock, and, in less than 20 minutes, bring them calmly to him.

At Jervoise, he was able to steer the herd past the hayshed where about 30 spectators broke into spontaneous applause.

“Drones will never replace helicopters, but they are another tool the cattleman can use,” he said.

“You can get up high and see where the cattle are in amongst the trees and send the bikes or horses directly to them instead of spending half the day trying to find them.”

He said cattle responded to drones in much the same way as they did to helicopters, but because drones were so much smaller, it was imperative that the operator didn’t sit the drone directly over the cattle and allow them to get used to the idea that it couldn’t hurt them.

He said good technique was even more important with a drone.

“Get up high, see where they are, see where they’re going, then use the drone by dropping down briefly to turn or block them, then get back off them and go up high again quickly,” he said.

Licensing, practicality, versatility and future possibilities were topics covered by the presenters at both workshops.

Chad Nowak, a former international drone racing champion now working for UAS Pacific, talked about the rules and regulations and safe operation of drones.

He said the rules applied even in the most remote locations and strongly recommended people take the time to get training and an appropriate licence.

CEO of OTB spatial, Michael Kaminski focused on the cutting edge applications of the technology including using drones to inspect assets, and using advanced remote sensing software to measure vegetation density for forage budgeting.

He also talked about their application in weed treatment on farms.

NQ Dry Tropics’ staffers Josh Nicholls and Gav Rosetti explained how drones were used to produce imagery and survey data for communications and project planning purposes.

Jervoise Station grazier Greg Jonsson who, with wife Kerry, hosted the second workshop said the technology was impressive and definitely something the next generation would use.

NQ Dry Tropics Senior Grazing Field Officer Josh Nicholls said drones were another tool that would help graziers to move cattle more often, to rest paddocks and retain end-of-season ground cover.

The Jervoise Station workshop was part of the Grazing Resilience and Sustainable Solutions program funded through the Queensland Government’s Reef Water Quality Program and delivered by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Burnett Mary Regional Group, Fitzroy Basin Association and NQ Dry Tropics. 

The workshop at Mt Pleasant Station was hosted by the Landholders Driving change project, funded by the Queensland Government through the Queensland Reef Water Quality Program.

Contact Josh ( to learn more about getting involved in the GRASS project, or visit the NQ Dry Tropics website at for more details.

Glendon helicopter and drone pilot Lyle Gillham demonstrates how an off-the-shelf drone can be used to muster cattle. Looking on is Dan Lyons, Niall Station (right) and Zoe O’Neill Mt Owenee.

Cattle at Mt Pleasant see a drone (circled) for the first time.

Glendon helicopter and drone pilot Lyle Gillham rounded up this mob of cattle and drove them from the other end of the paddock to move quietly past the hayshed where the appreciative audience spontaneously applauded his skill.

Logan graziers Wendy, holding grand-daughter Kelsey Kingwill, and Rob Barrett, with Kirknie graziers Logan and Don Rae (right).

NQ Dry Tropics Grazing Field Officer Sarah Ziebarth with (clockwise from her left) Georgia Keough, Welcome Downs, Bridie Jenkins, Severnvale, Mackenzie Keough Welcome Downs, and Bobbie Jenkins, Severnvale.