In 2013, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) captured the limelight – and fueled the imagination for big strides ahead for real-time crop imagery.

In 2014, satellites may steal some of that UAV thunder if promises to deliver actionable images every week on every crop acre across the America’s heartland come to fruition.

With little fanfare, GEOSYS, the French-based satellite imagery company bought by Land O’Lakes in late 2013, began delivering weekly satellite crop images to U.S. farmers through WinField-affiliated ag retailers in April.

Satshot, another major satellite imagery provider, says it will begin providing weekly crop images beginning in 2015. For 2014, it has increased the frequency of its 5-meter resolution crop images to every three weeks, up from every four weeks in 2013.

Meanwhile, UAVs could begin delivering real-time anytime crop images for the 2016 crop season – assuming federal regulators hold to their fall 2015 schedule for releasing regulations governing commercial UAVs – or recent legal challenges to FAA regulations don’t speed up the timetable.

When combined with crop imagery from manned aircraft and ground-based sensor systems like Trimble’s GreenSeeker and Ag Leader’s OptRx, U.S. crop producers will have a wealth of imagery sources to help improve management of their crops.