If you are a farmer, you should take advantage of modern science by using an Ag drone. Fixed-wing agricultural drones such as the PrecisionHawk Lancaster, SenseFly eBee SQ, and AgEagle RAPID are often favored by farmers to cover more areas and spend more time in the air than a multi-rotor platform such as the DJI Phantom 4.
Nevertheless, they cannot do everything but are completely suited to large, open-field scanning.
Fixed-wing ag drones usually take more payload than a multi-rotor — that means more detectors — so more information can be captured in one flight. This can decrease the total time to collect information for any particular acre.
Fixed-wing drones are more expensive, too — they generally cost $5,000 to $25,000 or more, after being equipped with sensors.
Multi-rotor ag drones such as DJI’s Matrice 100 are better-suited to precision imaging of small/constrained areas and 3D scanning of fields and items because of their maneuverability.
Flight times for multi-rotors and quadcopters are around 1/2 that of a fixed-wing.
Payloads on several multi-rotors are less than fixed wings, so most only carry a couple of sensors. Because of this, covering an entire field can take twice as long, just like a fixed-wing.
Multi-rotor drones are typically cheaper than fixed wings, beginning at about $1,500-$10,000 for a professional-grade camera drone packed with multi-spectral cameras and software for agriculture picture processing.
The Best of Both Worlds
Instead of opting for one type of drone, some farmers and operators buy less costly versions of both.
A fixed-wing drone is used for large open areas where long, unobstructed straight-line moves are possible. A small, inexpensive multi-rotor can be used for spot-checking problem areas more tightly, for rapid scouting missions, and for managing area of a plane can’t fly over.
Many farmers now start by purchasing a ready-to-fly $1,500 quadcopter like a Phantom 4 PRO or an NDVI-equipped pre-tested solutions such as DJI’s Smarter Farming Package.
After analyzing the ROI of drone surveying, they can upgrade to the more costly and more effective fixed-wing and multi-rotor packages that could unite with their Farm Management Information Systems (FMIS) and Agronomy Management Systems (AMS).
The Top Ag Drones /UAVs – (Ready To Fly)
Given below are the most famous Ready-to-fly agriculture drone/UAS/UAV systems on earth, both fixed-wing and multi-rotor. These unmanned aerial survey drones are sent ready-to-fly and are equipped with all of the software, sensors, and hardware you will have to check plants’ health, monitor livestock, and survey farmland.
The market is changing rapidly, however.
Many early entrants are gone now, and most providers update their prices, features, rigs, and software packages on which sounds like a monthly basis. Be sure that you check the manufacturer’s website for the latest details.
The Best Fixed Wing Ag Drone
Fixed-wing UAVs would be the best option when you must cover a lot of the ground quickly. Fixed-wing ag drones can cover up to ten times the acreage that a standard quadcopter can cover in one flight.
Having said that, the image quality can suffer due to the speed. By way of instance, fixed-wing UAVs are usually not able to capture topographic / survey-grade 3D detail.
senseFly eBee SQ ($12,000+)
The eBee SQ is the newest upgrade of the eBee Ag UAV, a popular and proven choice amongst ag service providers who must quickly cover a good deal of ground. Up to now, the eBee series has logged over 300,000 missions.
A Complete Ag Solution
This drone is simple to fly and comes with senseFLY’s Sequoia 5-spectrum bands (4 spectral bands + visible/RGB) and advanced flight planning, flight control, and image processing software designed primarily to work within an entire drone-to-tractor workflow.
Flight Planning Simplified
The eBee SQ includes its proprietary eMotion Ag flight preparation and ground station software, which makes the process of developing a flight plan really straightforward.
To get started, simply upload your area boundaries from your current FMIS systems, such as Trimble FarmWorks or Ag Leader’s SMS; or you can draw them on-screen.
To start a new mission, the pilot only needs to establish the region to survey, set the picture resolution, and specify the desired image overlap. Then, the software creates an optimal flight plan.
500 Acres in One Charge
Since this UAV is really fast, the eBee SQ can catch multi-spectral and visual information on tens of thousands of acres of crops in one flight.
When you’ve captured that information, you can process it with much popular software of your choice like MicaSense ATLAS, Pix4Dmapper Ag/Pro software, or AIRINOV to make vegetation index maps.
Some of the data you can capture in one eBee flight include:
- Vegetation indices (CCCI, CWSI, MCARI, NDRE, NDVI)
- Soil H20 levels
- Topography / 3D mapping (limited / not survey quality)
- Plant counts
- Soil temp
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Using your index maps, you can then create prescription maps utilizing Pix4Dmapper Ag & upload them to your FMIS system or a tractor; or you can process the data further using another indicator map solution like SMS, ArcGIS, QGIS, AgPixel, Global mapper, and other popular GIS systems.
1.1 kg / 2.4 lbs
55 minute flight times
Sequoia multi-spectral sensor presents more precise data than NIR options.
Up to 500 acres per flight (400 feet Altitude, 12 cm/pixel resolution)
Other Fixed Wing Ag Drones
1. HoneyComb AgDrone ($10,000+)
A complete software/hardware/data storage package with many different sensors available, including visual stereoscopic, NDVI, and NIR (thermal imaging). Comes with flight planning/control software and all the hardware you require. Flight times up to 55 minutes.
2. Sentera Phoenix 2 ($18,000)
Sentera produces the best Fixed Wing Phoenix 2 Imaging Drone. Complete hardware, software, and information storage solution built for crop surveying! Captures NIR, NDVI, RGB visual, and Live NDVI (streaming) during the same flight. Covers 100 acres per excursion.
3. AgEagle RX60
A super-solid ‘flying wing’ made of carbon fiber and Fiberglass, this UAV can fly up to 60 minutes on a charge. Captures NIR, NDVI, and visual images using GoPro and other detectors. Package includes aircraft, software, camera, launcher, and training.
4. Trimble UX5 ($25,000+)
The French aerospace firm, Trimble, sells its highly innovative UX5 drone in America through local resellers. Hardware, software, and processing are included. With an optional 24MP visual camera or MicaSense RedEdge, the UX5 can obtain data down to a 2cm/pixel resolution and works in the harshest of environments.
The Best Multi Rotor Ag Drones
A multi-cable drone is a much better choice for close-in spotting, scouting, and detailed surveying jobs than a fixed-wing drone.
Flying a multi-rotor drone, slow and low, gives you much more control over every picture you shoot. Because of this, accuracy and resolution are often better than fixed-wing UAVs can provide.
The tradeoff, of course, is you’ve got much less range and coverage per excursion. Most multi-rotor ag drones can not cover over 50 acres between battery/charges swaps.
1. PrecisionHawk Package ($1,989)
PrecisionHawk sells a starter-level Quadcopter package that contains a
-Phantom 4 PRO with included visual detector,
-DataMapper Lite image processing software (1-year subscription including a few VIS-data calculations ),
-InField flight tracking software, and
-InFlight flight control and tracking mobile app, which lets you control the ag drone with your smartphone.
Video by: PrecisionHawk
The Phantom 4 PRO is a superb camera drone that is more than capable of visual surveying tasks; however, there are added costs to turn this package into a comprehensive crop surveying solution. And it has its own limitations.
By way of example, it doesn’t have any multi-spectral sensor to capture NDVI data, and you will most likely need to buy additional Datamapper calculations to extract value from the pictures you shoot.
2. Sentera NDVI Update for DJI Phantom 4 PRO (around $2,000)
This is an excellent starter ag drone, specifically for scouting. Sentera offers a TrueNDVI camera upgrade for DJI’s wildly famous and simple to use Phantom 3 and Phantom 4 quadcopters. They will also sell you a brand new Phantom 4 PRO, fully equipped.
The kit includes a 1.2MP NIR global shutter camera besides your present Phantom camera — an entirely-gimbaled color camera for scouting and NIR photographs for NDVI indexing. Pictures are geo-tagged and timestamped to allow fast, streamlined field scouting and identification of difficulty areas. The package incorporates a free version of Sentera’s AgVault picture processing software.
Two drawbacks, though: You’ll have to ship your phantom quad to Sentera to do the upgrade; and, attaching another camera voids DJI’s guarantee.
3. DJI Smarter Farming Package($8,300)
This is an economical and easy-to-fly agricultural surveying package for serious farm operators and professional ag service providers. Contrary to PrecisionHawk’s Crop Scouting Package, this ag drone has a correct multi-spectral agriculture surveying platform. Also, DJI’s warranty stays intact.
The DJI Smart Farming Package involves their easy-to-fly Matrice 100 flying platform with two onboard sensors (NDVI and visible) installed.
For image processing, the package includes PrecisionHawk’s best DataMapper solution. Everything is combined, tested, and ready to get to work out of the box.
4. AGCO Solo ($7,850)
Depending on the 3DR Solo quad, the AGCO SOLO ag drone add-on kit comprises a GoPro near-infrared camera for tracking plant health and a GoPro Hero 4 camera for color imaging.
This UAV also covers one year of Agribotix imaging software. The package provides NDVI maps, high-resolution orthomosaics, and Field Health and Management Zone maps. The valuable flight time is around 20 minutes.
5. Sentera Omni Ag ($16,995)
Using Sentera’s Dual 4K multi-spectral sensor, the Omni Ag is an entirely integrated hardware + software package that captures high-resolution RGB visual, NDVI, NIR, and Live (streaming) NDVI data — all at precisely the same time.
The Omni Ag drone can stream Live NDVI harvest information as it flies, which means you get an immediate response to crop health and take action before it lands. I don’t know of any other quads that can do this right now.
The Omni Ag drone could be controlled by your smartphone or the dedicated flight controller. Image processing is managed using Sentera’s AgVault 2.0 software.
Additional Multi Rotor Ag Drones
1. senseFly Albis:
The Albis is a quadcopter developed by French drone maker Parrot, especially for agriculture applications. This package contains an image processing pipeline depending on Pix4D’s famous cloud-based solution.
2. AgBot by Aerial Technology International ($8,000+):
When purchasing an ATI AgBOT™ there is a bundle option; ATI’s bundle offers IR, Multispectral, And HD video modules (fast release/swappable); 26-minute flight period; 16-mile range; solid carbon fiber chassis; 1 fps data capture @ 38mph
3. Indago AG ($30,000+):
Built by Lockheed Martin, the InDago can remain in position for 45 minutes and cover 75 acres per flight, about double that of another quadcopter.