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Technology — Test sites in three areas will go online this summer while county and coast sites prepare

Yamhill County is in talks to expand a planned drone testing area along the Oregon coast into the northern Willamette Valley.

The Federal Aviation Administration had previously indicated it would consider such an expansion and proponents hope the move could make the Willamette Valley a major hub in the emerging field of precision agriculture.

“Precision ag,” as it’s sometimes called, is all about putting things like water and fertilizer in the right place, at the right time and in the right quantity.

Jeff Lorton, economic development manage for the Yamhill County, said low-flying drones will revolutionize agriculture by making “precision ag” practical and cost-effective.

“Medicine went from analog to digital in the last 20 years,” Lorton said. “Agriculture is going through the same thing right now. It’s just starting.”

Test sites in Tillamook, Warm Springs and Pendleton are expected to begin operations sometime this summer, but Lorton said he expects it might take longer for drones to take off in Yamhill County. Still, the county is already preparing the ground there.

The county and a plethora of trade sponsors will host what’s being billed as the first annual Oregon Precision Farming Expo April 2-3 at Evergreen Air and Space Museum in McMinnville. To register for the event, which costs $100 per person, visit

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