June 18, 2014

Are growers ready to put UAVs to work on their farms?

Join us for the Delta AgTech Symposium July 7-8 in Memphis!

by Mike Karst, Senior Partner

UAVs, UAS, drones—no matter what you call them, “unmanned” aerial vehicles and systems are about to become a force to be reckoned with in precision agriculture. It’s a market of infinite possibilities, including (but not limited to) monitoring crop health and performance, aerial spraying of fields, and observing infrastructure on the farm.

With such unlimited potential, it’s no wonder the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) has declared agriculture will have the greatest economic opportunity over the next decade. AUVSI predicts UAV integration in the United States will generate 70,000 jobs and have an economic impact of $13.6 billion through the year 2017. Through 2025, AUVSI projects those totals to grow to 100,000 jobs with an economic impact of $82 billion.*

The technology is coming, and soon. AUVSI, along with other special interest groups, is making inroads with regulators, and the Federal Aviation Administration is working towards commercial-use regulations. The urgency for UAV use in agriculture is even more evident as FAA is considering regulatory exemptions for the industry prior to the planned September 2015 deadline.

Exciting times. But what do growers think about it? Some research Entira conducted with 400 soybean growers (each with 500 acres or more) revealed farmers don’t know a lot about the role UAVs may play – but they’re certainly curious about it. In our survey; about 21% said they planned to own and operate their own UAV; 29% said they aren’t sure; and half of respondents said they would hire a UAV service provider. What this says to me is that they’re very interested to see what these tools can do, but not quite willing to take the leap and invest in owning and operating one themselves.

Clearly, the industry is on the cusp of something huge. The time is right for education. It’s exciting and high-tech. And if all goes well, a year from now these drones may be hard at work on farms across the U.S.

We interact with farmers on a regular basis and we work with agribusinesses every day. The smart thing for any ag company to do now is get up to speed with this technology and strategically consider how your business might support it. Get in on the front end so you can be part of creating the high-tech farm of the future. It makes sense—UAVs offer a safer, faster, more efficient solution for day-to-day functions in the operation. Whether it’s applying inputs more precisely and efficiently, observing crops for signs of stress, monitoring cattle in a remote pasture, or investigating hail damage to a building, UAVs are a remarkable new tool in the grower’s precision farming toolbox. It gives them access and views of their farms that otherwise would not be possible—at least not safely or efficiently.

UAVs set to take flight over Memphis in a symposium of high-tech tools of the trade

From Entira’s vantage point, we’re seeing an imminent need for agribusinesses to get on board with UAV technology so we can help pave the way with farmers. We’ve forged a partnership with AUVSI to host a symposium this summer that brings together ag players with the technology providers to showcase how unmanned systems can be put to work on a farm operation. In early July in Memphis, you’ll find leading experts doing flight demonstrations of drones and in-depth presentations about the functions they’re capable of performing on a farm. In addition to the onsite demonstrations and exhibitions, speakers will cover such topics as integration solutions, manufacturing, data collection and analytics, among others. Read more about the Delta AgTech Symposium: Advancing UAVs in Agriculture, and consider joining us July 7-8 in Memphis!

Bottom line, we believe a significant portion of the grower population is open-minded to UAVs having a role on their operation in the future. True to their nature, growers just want to see it to believe it. Show them proof of their benefit, and growers will be more willing to adopt the technology. We’d love to have a conversation with you about how this innovative technology fits in with your business strategy, so please contact us if you’re interested in discussing it.

*The Economic Impact of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration in the United States, AUVSI, March 2013