Phil Ellerbroek works for Aerial Precision Ag, which makes a "ready-to-fly kit" for around $4,000 that includes a multirotor unmanned aerial vehicle fitted with an HD camera and video recorder. He’s had a lot of conversations with farmers about flying drones. "One of the most common questions I get is, farmers want to know what they can do with it," he says.
Your imagination is probably the biggest limiting factor, Ellerbroek says. He lists eight inventive ways he has seen drones deployed on the farm.
- Tile and drainage inspections
- Barn roof and silo inspections
- Irrigation pivot inspections
- Hail and cattle damage inspection for crop insurance claims
- Scare off wildlife such as deer that are eating crops
- Patrol for hunters on your private land
- Locate missing cattle (This is where a thermal camera comes in handy.)
- Video check-ins for landlords
If you’re just getting started, don’t be afraid to employ a "crawl/walk/run" strategy, Ellerbroek says. Find one or two ways to use it, and get familiar with the equipment at your own pace.
To watch drones in action and learn more about the legal challenges, visit