Will Drone-Hopeful Farmers Be Smiling This Festive Season?

As Black Friday weekend and Cyber Monday descend, there’ll no doubt be plenty of tentative tech lovers out there considering a first-time drone purchase. Even though official drone regulation is expected to be in place for Christmas, plenty will be sold over the coming days and weeks as buyers begin to embrace an industry on the up.

One field (pun absolutely intended) expected to benefit in the months to come is the agricultural industry. As the festive season nears farmers will soon be able to get their hands on DJI’s new Agras MG-1, as the Chinese firm release their first drone not tailored to consumer photography enthusiasts. DJI is widely regarded as the finest producer of consumer drones in the world, so this really is a move which will make other manufacturers sit up and take notice.  

DJI's Crop Dusting Drone

DJI's Crop Dusting Drone

The primary use of the Agras will be crop spraying, and DJI estimates that it will prove over 40 times more efficient than manual spraying. It’s huge tank can carry 10 litres of liquid at a time, and its speed of eight metres per second allows it to cover between seven and ten acres every hour. Not bad at all.

The agricultural industry has been using drones for some time now, although this has admittedly been more for crop and livestock monitoring purposes than direct management. Aerial data collected from drones can help farmers keep up with the progress of their crops and spot any areas which require attention. While there are several drone manufacturers out there developing drones for pesticide-spraying purposes, the market is in its early stages and ripe for the taking.

DJI has announced that they’ll be offering the Agras in China and Korea first, where many farms still rely on the manual introduction of pesticides by backpacked workers. It’s expected to be priced at around $15,000, and can be used for automatic, semi-automatic, or manual operation. As you’d expect from a piece of agricultural equipment, the Agras has been designed with durability in mind, with built-in dustproofing and water resistance.

It remains to be seen whether or not these Chinese drones will prove a hit in the American market, where farms tend to be spread over greater areas, and farmers have for years been using small planes to spray their fields with hundreds of gallons at a time.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Robert Blair, an Idaho farmer and vice president of agriculture for commercial-drone company Measure LLC, was skeptical about crop-spraying drones that can carry a small of pesticide, claiming that “It’s a niche market”.

While our current focus here at Airnest is on improving the drone experience for aerial photography enthusiasts, we’ll soon be announcing some agriculture specific features as we hone in on a number of industries which stand to benefit from the Drone Software Revolution. Watch this space!