The autopilot system can be programmed to fly a pre-determined grid and then return home. The aircraft also has built in safety feature that tells it to return home if it doesn't have enough battery charge to complete its mission. If it goes down anywhere but "home," it automatically emits GPS coordinates of its location and it has an electronic location transmitter than sends a signal that can be tracked on a tablet or smart phone.
The entire package retails for under $7,000.
The prototype aircraft has been extensively tested, Chilcott said. It has flown hundreds of hours and mapped thousands of acres of cropland and has been deliberately crashed into corn stubble, trees and barbed wire fences to ensure its durability in ordinary farm operations.
"I throw it in the back of the pickup truck and take off down a dusty road," Chilcott said. "I want to be sure that it will hold up in normal, everyday farm use. My goal is to make this something that works for farmers."
Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly named Mike Toscano as Mike Tuscano. Farm Progress regrets the error.