Interesting topic, I too have pondered this many times. Who will be the operators and, if a third-party, what will compensation likely be? Ball park figures anyway. In my area of Kansas, Agronomists are often cramming as many acres in as possible under their responsibility. I don’t doubt that some of them will,if not already, seek out quadcopters as scouting aids. I see the more tech-savvy individuals primarily seeking out such tools. I do believe that quantitative data derived from calibrated sensors will be king with regards to producers and ag industry professionals looking to measure changes over time and before/after significant events that effect the growth of crops.
I agree with your assessment Matt, we’ll see the whole gamut of users and use-cases. With the grain prices in the tank right now, do you think folks are willing to shell out more money for the higher end calibrated sensors and platforms? After all, we should be using these to decrease inputs and increase yields right? I think if folks can be shown ROI, they’ll be more likely to adopt the technology.
Case studies will certainly help to sell uav services. The good service providers are the ones who want to be part of the solution. I don’t want to make money off of somebody who isn’t making money off of my services, and that’s what I would expect as a consumer. We have a chance to help growers in our community be more efficient with inputs and timing. We’re really only beginning to see what unmanned remote sensing has to offer. I believe growers who are budget minded and can look past the initial investment will easily make money and find areas of improvement by utilizing a remote sensing schedule. ROI is only an opportunity, not a guarantee, in my eyes. Unfortunately, low grain prices are somewhat of a double-edge sword. On one hand it’s never been more important to minimize the inputs and maximize outputs. The other side is that when prices are where they are now, justification of an additional cost is difficult for some producers to see past.
Matt: Up in Canada, we are typically seeing rates for 3rd party providers in the $3-5/acre range for single flights. A single quarter-section would be at the upper end, with the price going down primarily based on acreage.
One other huge factor is the number of repeat flights, so customers requiring multiple flights per season, especially in close proximity to the pilot would get even better deals (we’ve heard as low as $2.25/ac). And those are Canadian $ too.
The local reality really is a big factor because both customers and pilots are widely dispersed with very little competition. This means that the road miles are often one of the biggest costs.
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