Crop Connect ’16: Easier, Cheaper & Safer — Drones Coming of Age in Ag

As drones have gained mainstream popularity over the last year or two, they’ve become easier to fly, cheaper and safer than ever before, making them more practical and obtainable for use in agriculture.

“The technology is so refined, a lot of producers now are starting to see the benefits,” says UAV specialist and pilot Chad Colby of Colby AgTech.

While a farm or agronomic advisor can still spend tens of thousands on a fancy UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle), basic consumer packages that cost less than $3,000 will meet most of the requirements for someone buying their first drone, he says.

“You have to do your research. There are a lot of different manufacturers. I don’t sell any equipment but I think the first step is the DJI platform today. They have about 70 or 80 percent of the market,” he says. “That’s a good focal point to start, but there’s so much great new stuff coming down the line as far as sensors go and all kinds of great things. We’re really just at the tip of the iceberg.”

Also read: DJI Launches Phantom 4 Drone

While there’s been plenty of buzz about the potential for drones on farms, Colby says anybody who already owns one is still an early adopter.

“I would be stunned if we’re at one or two percent. I just don’t think there are that many,” he says.

Regulatory issues are still affecting adoption, as he notes the U.S. is lagging Canada in developing regulations that accommodate the use of drones for commercial purposes.

Colby says the most significant change in unmanned aerial systems has been the improvement in how easy they are to operate. As he demonstrates in the video below, the ability to “see” what the UAV is seeing in a stabilized, high-definition real-time image on a tablet has made field imaging much more efficient.

Chad Colby joined us at CropConnect ’16 in Winnipeg to discuss how drone technology is changing:

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Kelvin Heppner

Kelvin Heppner is a field editor and radio host for RealAgriculture and RealAg Radio. He's been reporting on agriculture on the prairies and across Canada since 2008(ish). He farms with his family near Altona, Manitoba, and is on Twitter at @realag_kelvin. @realag_kelvin

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