ROI Analysis on Drones

August 25, 2015 12:39 PM
ROI Analysis on Drones

Drones can be flown for fun, or deployed to perform a variety of tasks on the farm. But what’s their actual monetary value?

The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) partnered with Measure to study and quantify the benefits drones can bring to precision agriculture. The study looked into the economic benefits of “drone as a service” (in other words, drone services provided via cooperatives or other retailers) for field crop scouting, 3D terrain mapping and crop insurance.

AFBF and Measure found a positive return on investment (ROI) when deploying drones in these three crops:

  • $12 per acre for corn
  • $2.60 per acre for soybeans
  • $2.30 per acre for wheat

“While lots of drone hardware has been sold to farmers, no tool existed [until now] to help growers quantify whether the benefits exceed their costs, especially when farmers want to outsource these types of services,” says Justin Oberman, president of Measure.

Measure is building an ROI calculator tool that will be available later this year, Oberman says. The tool will give farmers a unique ROI number based on the farm’s individual characteristics.
Sponsors of the study included AFBF, GeoSilos, Lockheed Martin, PepsiCo, AGCO, Beck’s Hybrids, Conservis, Growmark, PrecisionHawk and WinField.

“Drones are amazing tools that will play a huge role in agriculture, but what has the most potential is creating actionable items from the data you collect,” says Lia Reich, director of marketing communications for PrecisionHawk. “We’ve seen people who spend a lot of money on the platform but don’t know what to do with the data they get.”

Earlier this year, PrecisionHawk launched a brand-agnostic algorithm marketplace where farmers can upload their data and purchase various software analysis tools à la carte. Examples include a field uniformity tool and a scouting report generator.

To date, more than 50 partners (mostly universities) have contributed their algorithms to the marketplace.
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