Updated April 24, 2024 11:33 AM

One Deere dealer executive told Precision Farming Dealer the last time they heard about the Volocopter drone collaboration from John Deere was in early 2020 and that there have been no updates from John Deere since.

Did you know that only a few years ago, John Deere was working on a large ag spray drone? I recently had a flashback to Volocopter’s 2019 announcement that it was collaborating with John Deere on a “large drone adapted for agricultural use” and that it would be on display at that year’s Agritechnica. 

I looked it up and confirmed it wasn’t a false memory. The Nov. 7, 2019, press release from Volocopter also said: 

“Both companies see great potential for the VoloDrone’s use in agriculture, with capabilities ranging from difficult topography to increased efficiency in the use of crop protection agents, sowing seeds or frost control. The development of this demonstrator is a first step toward bringing this innovative technology closer to commercial application after full testing in the field.”


The photos (courtesy of Farm Equipment Editor/Publisher Mike Lessiter, who saw the drone in person in 2019) don't do it justice. The unit on display was just over 30 feet long, more than double the 14 foot long Hylio AG-272, currently the largest ag spray drone on the market.

The prototype claimed 30 minutes of flight time and the ability to cover almost 15 acres per hour. For comparison sake, a DJI T40 spray drone has a flight time of 9-12 minutes and covers 52 acres per hour. Volocopter’s website bills the VoloDrone as a “heavy-lift solution” and mentions package delivery, air rescue and shore-to-ship deliveries among its many potential uses.

In a 2019 RealAgriculture interview during Agritechnica, Volocopter’s CEO  said the company was focused on the vineyard arena for the ag spray model and was “pretty close to market entry.”

Fast forward to 2024 and it appears something went wrong along the way. I reached out to John Deere to clarify what happened with the project and was told, “There isn’t anything new to share on this.” Still, we don’t have confirmation that the collaboration has been called off.

What Would Deere’s First Spray Drone Mean?

I’ve heard many times over the years that when John Deere takes its first step into a new ag equipment arena, it legitimizes it in the eyes of many growers. One example was John Deere’s first no-till drill, the 750 in 1985. According to a No-Till Farmer report, “The innovation of the 750 is said to have done more for no-till than any other no-till equipment development in history and confirmed that John Deere accepted no-till is here to stay.” It could be argued that the same happened in 2022 when John Deere re-entered the strip-till arena with a unit reportedly designed by shortline toolbar manufacturer Environmental Tillage Systems.

The sight of a big, green ag spray drone on John Deere dealers’ lots could mean a lot for adoption of this tech in the industry. Five years out from the initial announcement, it doesn’t look like we’ll be seeing it any time soon. Should the day come when Deere paints that iconic leaping deer logo on a 30-foot ag spray drone, it will turn some skeptics into believers.

For more info on the current ag spray drones being offered and what they can do, check out this article.