Easy guide to get started.
Wow, who would have thought just 3 or 4 years ago that the use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) would be the next piece of technology to really move into the agriculture industry. Speaking with growers around the world everyone is very interested in the future applications for agriculture.
Early reports are that during Christmas 2015 it’s possible that 1 million unmanned aerial systems (UAS) will be sold in the United States. Some of these systems are being purchased for the farm, there’s no question about it.
Are you considering buying a system for your farm? Know this your not alone. Caution though, this is NOT like other pieces of technology you just power up and use. Might want to do some research or get some training before deciding on which to buy and heading to the sky.
Best place for the latest information about what you can and can’t do with your new systems is www.knowbeforeyoufly.org
So you have made the decision “time to buy” what do you do? It’s important to identify exactly what you are trying to do. Are you just trying to do some basic scouting or trying to fly 4000 acres per day? Please proceed with caution and do your research. Buying your first unmanned aerial systems (UAS) is unlike most things that you purchase. For the most part, spending more money unfortunately does NOT mean more value or return on your investment. Rule of thumb, today you can buy a great multi-copter kit for $1500-2000, are obviously more expensive systems but honestly it’s not the place to start in my opinion. These systems today come ready to fly, complete with case, camera, batteries and everything else you need. Just add your tablet or smartphone and you will enjoy 720HD first person view of what the ship’s camera sees.
If your mission requires a fixed wing there are several options also, there are good options out there but they are considerably more money for obvious reasons than a multi-copter. But there are big advantages to fix wings over multi-rotors. We have been using them for two seasons and they are very reliable platforms. They also have the flexibility to carry many different types of sensors as the technology advances.
Other thing you must consider during your process is to research the software and applications that really bring great value to these platforms. Right now there are some amazing tools that really bring life to this technology. We are talking about one click mission planning, automated flight, advanced imagery, 3D modeling and all from a multi-rotor that cost much less than $2000.
Unfortunately without doing your research you could get caught in making a bad choice. There are examples now of systems that failed, companies no longer in business, etc. Remember this technology is moving REALLY fast, and just because you spend more does not mean you get more.
Watch this great video from the AMA, Academy of Model Aeronautics.
Also keep you eye on the future, because I can promise your there is MORE coming very very soon. Look down below for a little glimpse of the future.
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Chad Colby is the founder and principal of ColbyAgTech.com, where he works with progressive farmers, leading companies and government agencies around the world to provide deeper understanding of new technology and recommendations on its practical applications. He is also well known for his industry-leading work as an advocate for commercial unmanned aerial system use in agriculture.