Bird's Eye Benefits in Agriculture: Commercial UAV Expo
By Cody Vanderholm, HTS Ag

I had the opportunity to go to Las Vegas earlier this month for the Commercial UAV Expo. There was a large wealth of information attained at the conference. When you walk through the convention hall and see all the companies and displays that are relative to the drone industry, your head is just spinning looking around to see who or what you want to look at more in depth.

I think as a business, we want to focus on what customers want and need help with and then how we can support them going forward. This can also be things that they don’t know they will need just yet. The drone market is multiplying faster than anyone ever thought and the practical use of them has come. That scares people. Change had always caused fear in the eye of people especially for farmers and other industries. This change is good. I will be the first to say that I was skeptical at first but the more I learn, the more I'm wheels up. (Pun intended.)

During one of the sessions with MicaSense, we had the opportunity to look in depth at the sensors that are available to the agriculture world for drones using their multispectral camera. This allows the user to narrow down the view of the crop from above and can have the ability to identify stress on the crop as well as discover areas that need to be looked at on the ground. This image shows just one of the ways to narrow in on where to look for an issue in your field. The green area that is on the right-hand side is the area that is infected with broadleaf weeds. This was found out by going out and ground truthing the image.


Being able to get above that crop and get a picture of the whole field is something that many people don't understand why it is beneficial and helpful. When an owner/operator can get a current picture with multiple data sets that can be used from one flight over that field, they can actively adjust or adapt certain parts of their operation to better their crop and or yield. I think moving forward being able to utilize drones to see what their crops are doing and how to make them better presents a huge ROI.

Another company we work closely with is DroneDeploy. With them, you can utilize the camera that is already on your DJI drone along with their algorithm to get data back from the flight. This is very economical to farmers because there is no additional cost for another camera to put on your drone. You fly the field, upload your images and your field is stitched together to get one large picture of the field. This allows you to easily see the whole field in one image and shows the areas to go and look at on foot. Within this software, you not only can look at plant health but also an elevation map, 3D model and a 2D map of the field.


When looking towards the future of drone usage in the agriculture market, the sky is the limit. I saw presentations that were using your mind to control swarms of drones, LIDAR systems that create geospatial data clouds of the landscape and extensive model and imaging software. There are some really cool ideas that are coming in the future. From the Intel presentation given by Anil Nanduri, agriculture is projected to be a $8.4 Billion sector by 2022. If you don't think that's a real number, I encourage you to do some reading and follow some experts on social media to see what their thoughts are. It's going to be one of the largest industries using drones. In fact, here are the other industries with their respective numbers- Utilities $2 Billion, Construction $6.6 Billion, Oil & Gas $6 Billion. Technology has already helped farmers in the field from planting to harvest and several ways in between, so why not let drones help you learn more and get more from your crops.

After attending the convention, I am looking forward to seeing the shift in technology in the different industries we work with or are looking to tap into. I am excited to see drones that will be autonomously out spraying crops and putting on cover crops without someone there filling up the hopper/tank or recharging the UAV. Who knows what’s coming next for agriculture but I am excited and I think you should be too. I welcome anyone who is interested hearing more or just want to visit about how drones could be used to benefit your operation. Please feel free to call and visit with me anytime.

Thank you and don't be a stranger!

Cody Vanderholm
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