Ag drones improving payloads, run times
A drone pilot and engineer says newer agricultural drones are far more capable than they were just a couple of years ago.
Jeramy Williams is with American Drone, a custom spraying and spreading service using drones and a dealer for farmers who want to have their own fleets and pilots. Williams tells Brownfield that drone use is regional because if a farmer in Iowa has corn stretching to the horizon with very few obstacles, airplanes and helicopters can cover a couple of thousand acres in a day. “The drone isn’t going to have that kind of capacity, but when you come to Wisconsin, Minnesota, those kinds of areas where you have tall trees that border the fields, it’s very difficult for a fixed-wing or helicopter operations to effectively cover the entire field.”
Williams says the technology for both drones and their batteries has come a long way in a short period of time. “One of the leading manufacturers had a drone out that maybe did an acre or two acres per hour. The very next iteration of that machine was doing 28 to 29 acres per hour at a two-gallon per acre rate.”
Williams says farmers have found there is a point where they find it is more cost-efficient to go from customer operators to owning their own drones. “Roughly, about six to seven hundred acres. Below that, folks seem to gravitate towards us doing the service. Above that, they are looking seriously at having their own fleet and their own pilots.”
He says today’s drones can easily cover about five acres in less than seven minutes.