Drones for Agriculture

Fly the right drone for your farming operation

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Whether for simple aerial photography, agricultural mapping, or drone-based inspections, we can help you select the drones that fit your crop scouting needs.

“Walking the field.” It’s how farmers, agronomists, crop insurers, and researchers have traditionally scouted crops. But, the practice is time- and labor-intensive, let alone a sweaty endeavor--especially in the heat of summer’s late growth stages. Worse, it’s nearly impossible to effectively analyze hundreds of acres of crops on foot.

Using drones, also called unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), farmers can capture data over their entire farm, all from the comfort of a single (ideally, shady) take-off zone. For farmers, agronomists, crop insurers, and researches, drones are more accessible than ever before, with more models offering longer flight times, greater payload capacities, and the ability to fly in varying conditions. Farming operations of all sizes are using drones to reduce the time and costs associated with crop data collection.

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Selecting an Agricultural Drone (UAV)

There’s no such thing as the “perfect agricultural mapping drone” for all applications. Selecting the right drone for use in agriculture starts with considering the particular use case.

Are you wanting to map small fields or hundreds of acres of crops?

Will you fly tight, craggy ranching terrain or wide, flat swaths of Iowa corn?

Do you grow crops in cold, windy, and wet areas or in a temperate paradise?
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Answers to all of these questions will give you a clue as to which drone to select for mapping your farm. For example, if you’re seeking to fly vast farm fields or pastures, you might require the flight efficiency and range offered by a fixed-wing drone. Contrastingly, if the area you need to fly is small, difficult to navigate, or exposed to harsh elements, you’ll be better off flying a multirotor drone, as you’ll benefit from its nimble and versatile flight factor.

While one can get lost in the technical specifications of drone technology, agriculture professionals should pay the closest attention to:

Form factor (multirotor vs. fixed-wing vs. VTOL)--multirotor or multi-copter drones feature typically 4-8 rotors and hover like a helicopter, where fixed-wing UAVs look and fly like an airplane. Vertical take-off and landing drones (VTOL) mix both form factors: their rotors pivot such that the drone can take off like a multirotor drone but fly like a fixed-wing drone.
Flight time, with sensor payload--with a visual or multispectral camera on board, the approximate length of time the drone can stay in the air in a single deployment
Range (Physical)--at top or cruising speed, the maximum miles/kilometers a drone can fly
Range (Wireless)--the diameter representing the furthest distance away from which the drone can fly from the operator, as limited by the wireless controller. This is typically much less than the physical range. Regardless, in the United States, it’s illegal to fly your drone beyond your visual line of sight (BVLOS) without proper authorization. This limitation is typically much less--at about a half-a-mile--than the wireless range of standard commercial drones. Agriculture professionals with large farming or ranching should take note and follow all regulations while operating their drone.
Payload capacity--the max weight that a drone can carry. Most commercial UAVs can carry the typical sensors used for agricultural crop data collection: visual or multispectral sensors. For heavier sensors, such as hyperspectral or LiDAR, we recommend deploying bigger drones.
Cruise speed--how fast the drone flies when at optimal velocity

With this criteria in mind, we’ve assembled a portfolio of drones for agricultural applications. Each of these UAVs comes with flight software, which enables simple aerial photography. And for mapping and analytics, such as for use with PrecisionAnalytics Agriculture, the drones in our portfolio are compatible with a range of commercial drone flight software.

Talk to our team about your goals to learn if drone-based aerial intelligence is right for your farming operation.

 

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Our Drone Portfolio

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BirdsEyeView FireFLY6 Pro & Pro S

Made in the United States, the BirdsEyeView FireFLY6 Pro is a fixed-wing drone that can cover more acreage than drones that fly using multirotor technology. In fact, you can scout 600 acres of crops in a single deployment.

Unlike most fixed-wing UAVs, the FireFLY6 PRO features pivoting rotors which enable Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL). With the push of a button, the drone automatically takes off vertically and begins forward flight. When it returns for landing, the FireFLY6 PRO hovers over the deployment area and slowly descends to the ground. These vertical takeoffs and landings reduce wear on the drone and decrease the likelihood of a damaging incident. The required deployment area: only 10 x 10 ft.

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DJI Matrice 200 v2

The M200 is a “workhorse” drone, perfect for repeated use in the toughest farming environments. It flies in sub-zero temperatures and high winds. Also, for farms or ranches in challenging terrain, the M200 features a complement of safety features, such as obstacle avoidance sensors and the DJI Airsense ADS-B receiver, helpful in detecting cooperative aircraft within your flight area. Use the dual gimbal to deploy two payloads, such as visual and thermal sensors.

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DJI Phantom Series

The DJI Phantom drone is the more affordable “cousin” of the DJI Matrice 200. It offers the same nimble flight dynamics, as well as obstacle avoidance features, at a lower price point. Still, the drone carries a high-quality visual or multispectral camera, ideal for capturing crops and processing vegetative indices (such as NDVI or VARI), counting crops, and identifying water pooling.

Results

Accelerating agriculture research

An agribusiness research company tested drones on the crops it grew at its research stations. Instead of surveying plots manually it deployed drones. The results:

2.5X more efficient than sampling
25% more accurate than hand counts
Surveyed full plots instead of sampling 10% to 40% of the field

Read the case study →

BASF quantified turf improvements

By quantifiably measuring sprig growth and green quality, BASF Turf and Landscape proved a 24 percent increase in Green Level Index for sprigs treated with Lexicon®. Now, according to Gary Myers, CGCS, BASF Pinehurst Project Lead, BASF is able to “use the data as the foundation of [their] presentations to prospective customers and golf course superintendents.” 

Read the case study →

Why PrecisionHawk?

We started in drones by manufacturing our own. So, we know what makes a solid flight platform that will collect data over the long haul.

 

Agriculture drones selected by professional pilots

Our flight team, headed up by an ex-Navy TOPGUN Captain, has selected drone technology suitable for a wide range of agricultural applications.

10 years of building and flying drones in agriculture

We got our start in developing UAVs for agriculture as WineHawk: an aerial robotics company for vineyards. Since then, we’ve built our drone portfolio to serve farmers of a wide variety of crops.

Flown by leading agrochemical and seed companies

We developed drone hardware packages for the world’s leading agronomic enterprises, honed for scientific precision.

Flying drones for agricultural research institutions

We’ve flown UAVs for the USDA, North Carolina State University, and many other organizations that are advancing the art of mapping farms and ranches.

Agricultural sensing-ready

The drones we offer can be flown with sensors by MicaSense, Headwall, DJI, and other manufacturers producing sensors for agricultural use cases.

Ag drones selected by ag scientists

Our industry-leading team of Ph.D. and remote sensing-accredited geospatial technologists have selected UAVs that meet the needs of agronomists and other agriculture professionals.

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Redefine the limits of yield intensification, using drone-based data collection and analytics.

 
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