Interest in Drones Soars at Wisconsin Farm Technology Days

August 31, 2015 09:00 AM
Interest in Drones Soars at Wisconsin Farm Technology Days

Drones are attracting droves of visitors at Wisconsin Farm Technology Days, as many of the devices have been seen hovering around their exhibitors.

Just about every type and brand of farm machinery is showcased at the 70-acre site on the Statz Bros. dairy operation in the town of Sun Prairie. But the two drone exhibitors at the agricultural show drew some of the biggest crowds on Tuesday, the first day of the three-day event.

Interest in the two-drone packages sold by DMZ Aerial, based in Prairie du Sac, has grown between 25 and 50 percent compared to last year's show in Portage County, co-owner Mitchell Fiene estimated.

"We had no down time today," he said of the crowd drawn to his company's drones on Tuesday. "Last year we had time to get water or grab some lunch. Not this year."

The drones sold by DMZ Aerial cost $3,500 and $5,000. Some of the company's competitors sell the devices for up to 10 times that much, Fiene said.

Farmers can use drones to check their field for evidence of disease, nutrient deficiencies or insect problems, among other things. The devices are easy to use and can be programmed to take photos of an entire field, which can then be analyzed by software or by an agronomist, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

At previous Farm Technology Days, retailers were the primary drone buyers, but farmers and representatives from cooperatives and crop consulting firms have become more interested in the devices since the Federal Aviation Administration started permitting businesses last year to fly them commercially on a case-by-case basis, Fiene said.

In the years to come, agricultural drones will be larger, increasing the range from one to two farm fields to an entire county, and come with additional functions, such as mapping, he said.

As the Federal Aviation Administration drops more restrictions on the commercial use of drones, Fiene expects more companies will build and sell the devices.

"And there will be a lot more buyers," he said.

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