While many headwinds rocked the agriculture world in 2022, one constant remained the same — agriculture’s propensity to innovate. Drone crop spraying, once seen as a novel innovation, is now another tool in the toolbox for countless farmers and ranchers across the country.
“Early innovators became early adopters in 2022,” said Rantizo President and COO Joe Riley. “2023 will be the year they become the early majority.”
In 2022 alone, Rantizo drones flew over 216% more acres than in 2021, while adding nearly 100 additional drones and pilots to their fleet. No longer the future of farming, drone spraying exemplifies today’s modern agriculture.
Technology Advancements Drive Rapid Adoption
When drones for spraying started to become part of the conversation in 2018 — the same year Rantizo was founded — the idea seemed farfetched to the majority. Frequently thought of more as a toy than a tool, drones have become meaningful tools for producers.
“The August 2020 derecho that decimated cornfields throughout Iowa is a perfect example of how drones are a solution for several headwinds,” said Riley. “Drones were able to apply cover crops on those decimated cornfields. As we head into 2023, drought conditions are still very top of mind. Drones are a great fit for drought conditions when reducing input costs and maintaining crop and soil health is crucial.”
The very first drone Rantizo used for demonstrating, testing and applying could cover a single acre in one hour. Now, drones can carry 10, 30, and even 40 liters of liquid payload. At standard labeled rates, that means drones approved for operation in the United States can now cover anywhere from 6-26 acres in one hour.
“With increased capacity and regulatory approvals that allow multiple drones to swarm, drones are not just a tool in the toolbox, but they must be needed to sustain a competitive advantage,” said Riley.
Regulatory Advancements Push Drone Industry Higher
As Rantizo looks to its fifth year of operation, Riley predicts 2023 will see more drone brands promoted. But he says the jury will remain out on their legality, reliability and after-sale support.
“The market is still trying to figure out how to make drones fit,” said Riley. “Big players will continue to jump in if they know how to integrate safely, legally and productively.”
Rantizo is keeping a close eye on how the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will be leveling the playing field in 2023. Many people buying and operating drones for aerial application illegally.
“We have been adamant about playing by the rules,” said Riley. “We believe it is best for the industry in the long run.”
No stranger to pushing boundaries and opening new doors, in 2019 Rantizo became the first company in Iowa to have all licensing and permissions from the FAA to perform aerial application services with a drone. They then quickly expanded into multiple surrounding states.
In 2020, they became the first company approved to operate multiple drones simultaneously (swarming) in all 48 contiguous states, a tremendous leap in both regulatory advancements and in-the-field productivity.
In 2021, the next natural progression was to get approvals for above-55-pound drones, which Rantizo was the first to obtain with the launch of the Agras T30 drone manufactured by DJI.
“We advocate for our customers and the industry on the regulatory front," said Riley. "We are happy to engage with all regulatory bodies; we believe it is our duty to steward a safe, legal and productive drone industry. We need to apply smart and yield more for the growers."
Reaching New Heights in 2023
One key technology expected in fall of 2023 is anticipated to be a shot in the arm as the drone industry continues to take off. Remote identification is expected to become relevant in September as a new process for unique drone identification within the National Air Space.
“Remote ID is a necessary step in bringing the drone industry as a whole (even beyond agriculture) together,” said Riley. “Our communities expect a safe airspace, regardless of drone type. Whether it's package deliveries by drone, commuter planes or ag spray drones, all need to operate safely within the same air space; this requires remote ID."
For more information on Rantizo’s turnkey Fly & Apply systems, visit the Rantizo website.