An Interview with Sam Thier of Precision Crop Imaging

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AgFlyers sits down to interview Sam Thier, a Kansas guy looking to make good in drone fly-for-service.

May 2, 2016

Sam Thier runs Precision Crop Imaging, a fly-for-service company specializing in drone imagery for the agriculture sector.  So, what’s it take to get going in flying crops for farmers? AgFlyers is going to find out!

Ok, first question has gotta be the obvious one: What made you want to start flying drones for a living?

Once I discovered that drones were available that could scout and survey fields, I knew that was something I wanted to do. I flew hobby rc as a kid, and I also  have experience with powered paragliding. Having grown up on a wheat farm, and combining that with a sincere passion for aviation, it all seemed like a perfect fit – it almost felt like something that I had to do!

What are your “tools of the trade”?

Currently I’m using the AgEagle Rapid system. I like the ease of use of the Ag Eagle. I can load a flight, and send it straight into the air. The AgEagle also does remarkably well in the Kansas wind! Hopefully in the near future we will have a few more systems including DJI Phantoms for smaller jobs.

What kind of “deliverables” does a customer looking for a drone flight of his land expect?

Well first off, they want to see if there is stress in the field and where it’s at. After we have the image, we’ll often walk out into the field to ground truth the stressed areas so we can figure out what is going on. After that, the producer can work with his agronomist or crop consultant to make a better decision as to how he wants to treat his field once we all know where and what the problems are. This also saves everyone concerned a ton of time when it comes to scouting.

When conducting a flight, what considerations must be made with respect to precision agriculture integration?

Sun and cloud cover is the probably the biggest deal. We like to fly at “high sun” between 10am and 2pm to avoid shadows that may throw off our results. However if we’re overcast, we can fly a lot longer as there aren’t any shadows to deal with. Running center pivots can also be problematic if one part of the field is wet and the other isn’t. Consistency is key!

If there was one piece of advice you could give to others looking to “hang their shingle above the door” in unmanned systems service business, what would it be?

This industry is really still in its infancy, and there are a ton of things to consider. For me, I love aviation and agriculture, so it was an easy choice to quit my 9-5 job and dive into this. If you’re considering getting into this industry, I would go sit down with the local Co-Ops and agronomists in your area and have a long talk talk with them about the technology and their uses for it. I did exactly that, and it helped to solidify my decision to go for it!

AgFlyers has asked Sam to “stalk” the forums for a bit; so if you’d like to turn this into 10 or even 20(!) questions for Sam then follow the link to comment in the forums. Thanks, Sam! 😉


Sam on the front page of the Great Bend Tribune!

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