Remote control chopper monitors crops from above

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LAKE ALFRED, Fla. (AP) -- University of Florida researchers are turning remote-controlled toy helicopters into high-tech monitoring devices for citrus and other crops.

The researchers equip the helicopters with cameras, then buzz them over the trees and fields. They then take high-resolution photos that can spot diseases and problems with watering.

The helicopters are being used to monitor other crops in Oregon, Nebraska and Arkansas and even Malaysia. They cost between $3,000 and $20,000, depending on the chopper's size and sophistication of its camera.

The researchers say that for most farmers, their equipment is better than full-sized helicopters and fixed-wing airplanes flown by human pilots.

They say those are too costly. They also say the photos aren't crisp because the full-sized helicopters can't get close to the crops.