The Hottest Thing in Ag Tech Right Now

Prairie Gleanings

Drones are the hottest tech in ag right now. Why are farmers crowding around to get a look at this new tech?

Published on: September 23, 2013

They're popping up at farm shows and field days across the Corn Belt.

Farmers have been seen gathering around product demonstrations murming excitedly. Occasionally, I'll run into someone who will say, "Hey, did you see it? Man, that thing was really cool." Shoot, even the Today Show had a segment on them a few weeks back.

Drones have certainly captured the imagination of farmers and techies alike. Is it the idea flying something without actually being in danger of crashing? Or, maybe it's the paltry price compared to other farm equipment? But, it could be that it promises to make an activity like scouting easier and, well, fun.

Whatever the reason, unmanned aerial vehicles have taken the ag industry by storm. UAVs have been used in military operations for years. Unlike their high-flying cousins, ag drones typically fly via rotors -- more like a helicopter than airplane. They also have a max ceiling of 600 feet and can't call down a precision missile strike.

Aerial Precision Ags HEX takes off and lands on its own.
Aerial Precision Ag's HEX takes off and lands on its own.

I've written a couple articles on these things. It seems like the going price is around $5,000, plus or minus a couple thousand depending on the model and options. Multiple companies are offering them.

The big promise is making field scouting much easier and more efficient. I see even more potential for enterprising agronomists who can market the footage and recommendations appropriately.

These things don't take advanced skills to operate like a remote control plane. One rep I spoke with said you can be in the air taking footage in less than an hour. And, it's getting easier.

Aerial Precision Ag has a new model that will take off, fly a preset pattern and land all on its own. It's as easy as setting waypoints on a map and pressing enter. (For more on this new model, check out the November Prairie Farmer's Editors' Choice.)

If you haven't seen a drone in action yet, I'm sure you will soon. They're quite the sight. But, folks volunteering for scouting in the July heat? Now that's a sight to see!