What revenue potential do you see for sales of ag drones at your dealership and what are the greatest obstacles to turning a profit with the technology?
“Recently, the talk of drones has greatly increased here in southern Iowa. We actually haven't fully dove into the drone conversation, but we have had a lot of conversations on it. When we mention to customers about scouting fields without having to walk into the fields, they are very interested. That seems to be our best bet for a potential profit.
“We also have thought about using drones for insurance purposes. We have seen some issues with planter skips or wind damage and it is an awesome tool to check those fields and actually print out high definition pictures that the farmer could submit for insurance claims.
“I've heard a lot about Trimble coming out with what I think is called the X5, which is a UAV. I hope that it can be used for field mapping purposes because to me, that would be the greatest money making venture.
“The biggest challenge to making money with drones is the cost of getting into them. I don't know a whole lot about prices but I'm sure that it isn't cheap. On the dealership side, we really need to know how we will make our money back from our investment in the technology. It all comes down to are we willing to take a risk?”
— Thomas van Woerkom,
“The potential of ag drones in south Louisiana is high only if we can get the technology down pat. With any new thing, we have to ensure that a positive outcome can be achieved.
“Will it benefit the customer is the other question we have to answer. Here in Louisiana, the sugar cane market would benefit the most because of the height of the crop and with the use of an NDVI camera, trouble spots are easily seen with the growth of the crop and its purity.
“Working with crop consultants and fertilizer recommendations and letting the customer use the data from a drone could possibly benefit them. Initial cost is steep for something that isn’t proven.
“We have spoken with an ag drone company and they have the knowledge and know-how to make their drones work. The other question about drones is can it be tied in with existing data? Data is just now growing up to become mature and how will we incorporate drones into the equation?
“If a company or consumer is going to step into the drone world they should do their homework and find what application best suits them like with anything else. There are numerous drone manufacturers out there, so happy drone hunting.
“The other thing is to consider is having an employee or team dedicated to a drone and its outcome and making it useful. The Federal Aviation Admn. (FAA) is the other mountain to climb because we need permission to fly at certain altitudes.
“It’s no big deal, but it can be time restraining especially when the weather isn’t playing nice. As far as the south is concerned, it can be used as a great tool for decisions in the field before harvest especially when we can’t access the crop via ATV or by foot.”
— Dustin Matthews,
Progressive Tractor & Implement,
New Roads, La.
“As a precision specialist for a John Deere dealership, I do not see Deere getting into the drone industry. However, from what I can see Deere is becoming more and more dedicated to technology and trying to fit the agronomic needs of customers through the setup and usage of MyJohnDeere.com. This enables any customer with Deere AMS products to partner with their ag service providers. In this way, ag service companies can greatly benefit from the use of UAVs.
“The biggest obstacle I see with UAVs is there is going to be a million people who try to start a business selling these drones. I have friends who have tried already.
“I compare it to the center pivot industry back when they were invented. It seems like every company tried to make their own brand of center pivot whether it would work well or not. Today, only 4 companies remain in this industry that I know of.
“Only the best companies who market drones to customers will survive, especially with lower corn markets and farmers trying to lower their record high input costs.
“The technology is sweet and I love how it can benefit a customer from an agronomic standpoint. However, I feel a lot of the ‘hype’ derives from how fun they would be to operate, not the added benefit at what could be a steep cost per acre in some cases.”
— Kyle Van Voorst,
“At this time, I really do not see a big push by our customers for this technology. That is not to say that they will not embrace it, but I think the FAA questions that surround this technology are the things that will keep our customer base away from it until those questions are answered.
“For us, it is something we are looking at to try to gain as much experience and knowledge about the subject as is possible at this point. If you are a dealer that is offering some sort of agronomy-based programs already, I can see how easily it could work into your total program.
“We are not offering any types of mapping or consulting services at this point because all of the fertilizer and seed dealers in our area are already offering those services. If we would decide to do this, it would be in partnership with one of those local dealers since they are already offering a lot of the services that it would complement.”
— Name withheld by request
“I can see a huge amount of potential in drones. Farmers in my area are constantly out scouting their crops, and if they could use drones to scout their fields instead of walking the fields, it would be a huge benefit for them.
“Personally, crop scouting is where I see the biggest potential in this area. I honestly think the first entity to invest in drones, if we started selling them, would be to local co-ops. If the co-ops were able to show farmers what they can do with these drones, there might be more potential in getting farmers to purchase them.
“In the future, once farmers and co-ops see the scouting capabilities of drones, there is a larger potential for spot spraying capabilities.
“The biggest hurdle is getting co-ops, and potentially farmers as well, to look at these as a tool that has the ability to make them money instead of just a cool toy.”
— Lee Drenkhahn,
“I see huge potential for drones in our area. Growers, especially the larger ones who have adopted technology, would value the early data that drones can provide and allow them time to change some practices, be it irrigation, pesticide or herbicide application in that same growing year.
“They would also gain value from year-to-year information from which they could make adjustments to soil chemistry to allow for higher production.
“Some of the obstacles I see are obviously government regulations, as well as those producers who do not see the value in technology. Also finding employees who can operate and maintain the drones will be an obstacle.”
— Robbie Petersen,
Sugar City, Idaho.