At least 10 Iowa businesses are now authorized to use drones, so the unmanned aircraft may become more common in the state.
The Des Moines Register reports (http://dmreg.co/1dp1Wg7 ) several of the businesses plan to use drones to monitor crops. Some will use them to help market real estate. Others obtained Federal Aviation Administration approval primarily to experiment with the aircraft.
Terry Sharp said he's trying to demonstrate the value of drones with his Agri-Tech Aviation business. So at this point he's not charging farmers for the flights that might be able to identify problems with crops early.
"We're not selling today's services, this is strictly on our dime with some customers we work with a lot," said Sharp, whose Indianola-based company has been providing manned aerial services for decades.
Experts believe agriculture is one of the main businesses that will be able to benefit from drones now that the FAA has established rules for them. Nationwide, the FAA has approved 497 applications to use drones.
The unmanned aircraft can provide infrared and other images of crops that will help farmers spot concerns.
"We can usually detect issues two weeks in advance before it's even visible in the plant," said Kirk Demuth, chief operating officer for AgPixel, which is based in Colorado but operates in Iowa.
Realtor Seth Hellinga said he thinks drones can help showcase property from a different angle.
"I just think it's a good marketing tool," said Hellinga, who is with Klaassen Realty in Ocheyedan. "I would foresee more Realtors probably pursuing their exemption in order to better serve their clients."
Justin Dodge, development coordinator for Hunziker Cos. in Ames, said using drones to shoot properties from above can also show surrounding neighborhoods and give prospective buyers a better feel for the area.
Some Iowa residents are experimenting with drones now to determine if they can make money with them in the future. Steven Zeets said he thinks there are a number of possibilities for aerial research with drones, but accuracy will be key.
"That's kind of hidden right now, because the big hype is flying the drone. But really the money is and the real hype is going to be 'How do I get data from this drone?'" said Zeets, who is a land surveyor from Marion.