Drone-Buying Checklist

FJ C8 F14211The 9 questions you should ask before you get started

If you’ve already answered yes to the question, “Should I use a drone on my farm?” the next logical question becomes, “What type of drone should I buy?” The challenge is that these unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) come in all shapes, sizes, capa­bilities and prices.

UAVs can perform any number of tasks, from getting a simple bird’s-eye view of a field to more complex analysis and management decision-making. Some ranchers have even herded livestock with drones.

Here are 9 additional questions that would-be drone users should ask before purchasing their first UAV:

1. What do you want the UAV to do, and is it possible? “It really depends on the application,” says Steve Cubbage, president of Prime Meridian. “People need to be careful thinking there are more bells and whistles than there actually are.”

2. How much will it cost for it to do what you want it to do?With a basic model such as a DJI Phantom Quadcopter fitted with a GoPro camera, you could start flying a drone on your farm for less than $1,000. More deluxe options sell for $10,000 but add important functionality such as multispectral imagery, data analysis, custom prescriptions and more.

3. How much ground should it cover? “If you’re covering large acres, that’s where a fixed wing has advantages over a quadcopter,” Cubbage says. “You can fly an extreme amount of acres going 30 or 35 mph. But if you want to hover over an area to get exten­ded views of something, the quadcopter is better.”

4. How foolproof and easy to fly is it? Mastering the learning curve is one of the biggest anxieties that first-time users have with drones, explains David Pinkerton, president of AgriImage.

“People need to check what built-in fail-safes are in place [such as a return-to-home feature or built-in GPS tracker],” he says.

Leave a Reply