While still a fairly newer innovation, drone use is becoming more common in the agriculture industry. There are a variety of ways to use drones in agriculture, including data collection, building a database of images and video perfect for marketing and social media use, and even for building customer relationships. For example, giving your customers framed aerial shots of their farm is a fantastic way to nurture the grower/agronomist relationship and set yourself apart from your competitors.
With all the great benefits of agricultural drone use, come the challenges that you may face when purchasing, owning and flying drones. Even with these challenges, below are some great ways to overcome the potential frustrations that can come with this technology.
1. Define Your Needs
There are plenty of opportunities for using drones in the agriculture industry. To get the most benefits from owning a drone, first take the time to identify what you will be primarily using the drone for. Determining your primary and secondary goals for using drones on the job, and for recreational purposes, will help you research and eventually purchase a drone that will best fit your needs.
2. Finding the Right Drone
Starting your search for a drone can be intimidating. There is an overwhelming amount of options from a wide variety of companies, and they all claim to be the best. This can make it difficult to know which drone is the right fit for you.
Drones range in price and services, but are still an investment. Ensuring that you are choosing one that is ideal for your skill level and needs can save you money and frustration. All-in-one drone packages are a great way to begin familiarizing yourself with drone technology. These full-package drones are often equipped with all the necessary accessories that otherwise would need to be purchased separately with more advanced drones. When buying your first drone, keep it simple and look for all-in-one options that provide the features that you are looking for and then build from there.
3. Rules & Regulations
To avoid fines and other trouble when operating drones, it is not only important to have your drone registered with the FAA, but also to make sure you have the correct licensing.
Using the drone for work purposes requires a different license (remote pilot license) than if you are registering as a hobbyist. You will need to take a test to earn a remote pilot license. Set yourself up to succeed by preparing for the test. There are helpful options for study materials available online. Additionally, the information you will learn will benefit you and help you get the most value from your drone.
Proper care will help your drone last longer and perform at optimal levels.
- Be sure to inspect your drone before, and after, every flight for any malfunctioning parts, including nicks or other visible propeller damage.
- Ensure that the battery is fully charged before each flight.
- Battery times can range anywhere from 20 to 50 minutes.
- If you head to the field with anything less than a full battery, your flight time can be compromised and you might not get all the images or video that you need for that particular visit.
Most drones require software updates approximately once a month. Stay updated with the latest versions of your drone and controller software so that you have the best experience each time you use it. Some drone batteries also require software updates. Check on your particular model to make sure you don’t miss an important update.
When you purchase your drone, ask the salesperson or another contact who is familiar with the drone what the software update protocol is and how often you should update it for proper use and to extend the life of your drone.
“Start out simple when it comes to drones,” recommends Corey Klaphake, technical specialist with West Central Distribution. “The best way to make sure you purchase the most appropriate drone for your situation is to reach out for guidance and advice from others in the ag industry who already use drones before you purchase one.”
With tips from trusted colleagues as well as your own research about drones, you will be able to be more successful in picking out the best drone for your own use. Then once you make the purchase, you will have better results operating your drone and will get more satisfaction and value from using it.
For additional resources on agriculture technology, plus agronomic information and product updates, keep reading our LIFT blog at inthefurrow.com/blog.