Over the past several years, I have had the privilege to talk with farmers around the world about the growing excitement of UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) in agricultural industry. No question that UAS technology is going to change how farmers see their operations. Did you know that the entire UAS industry is reported to have the greatest potential to affect agriculture industry?

Farmers are always quick to ask me, “What are your best tips for a new user?” Here is my best advice:

Be Educated on Local and Federal Regulations. It is critically important to have a very good understanding of what the local and federal regulations are before you fly anything in the National Air Space. It is too easy to make a mistake, as today many cities are banning UAS use. Do your research BEFORE you fly.   www.knowbeforeyoufly.org

Buy a Ready-to-Fly System. DO NOT start with a high dollar ship, there is NO reason to do so. There are so many great systems today, and nearly 70 percent of the UAS market is held by DJI.com. Why? Because they are a solid platform to begin your experience without breaking the bank! You can buy a great system for less than $2,000 that is amazing, complete with camera, case, batteries, test flown, and best of all 100% “Ready-to-Fly.” Unfortunately, many users buy too much ship without the experience needed, and it often does not end well. I chose to buy my ships from a farmer owner company called www.flyingag.com 

Define Your Mission. Like other forms of aviation, there are different airplanes for different missions. Flying a UAS is no different.   Just want to take photos, or do you want to perform some advanced imagery?   Check out the tool www.dronedeploy.com, which combines the mission planning and image capture. 

Become a student. With all the great online resources, it is easy to learn so much from other peoples misfortunes. Nearly all manufactures have videos to train new users on how to get started and operate the systems safely.

Find the Right Operator. Using UAS technology is like everything else on your operation: You need to find the right person to use it. Rule of thumb: If they don’t “crash,” you’re doing fine. If your operator has more than one incident, then you might not have the right person operating the UAS.

Manage Risk and Fly Responsibility. When it is time to fly, understand the risks and manage them. My best tip is to create your own personal checklist that you use on each flight. Everything from personal limits and reminders on wind, battery, altitude and emergency procedures.

Don’t Wait, Get Flying. This is a big one. Many times a hear this: “I’ll just wait a few years until the technology gets better.” Honestly, you could not be farther from the truth. The fact is, there will be new and better technology coming. You need to get some experience now or you will not be able to catch up. And remember: you can buy great performing systems under $2,000. 

Here are some great online websites to help get you started. Unlike other fun hobbies, you will need to revisit these sites to keep current with new changes in this industry.

Federal Aviation Administration UAS - https://www.faa.gov/uas/

Know Before You Flight - http://knowbeforeyoufly.org

Academy of Model Aeronautics - http://www.modelaircraft.org