According to a late 2016 article in Successful Farming, drones also known as unmanned aerial
vehicles (UAVs) were first received with hesitation in the agriculture industry. Although the
new technology was known to provide growers with a way to see potential problems that wouldn’t
otherwise be known from ground level, the new technology was taken with initial apprehension due
to the lack of regulations, in addition to the sometimes challenging process of applying for a
Section 333 exemption through the FAA.
Slowly but surely, the agriculture industry is realizing the benefits and discovering different
strategies on how drones can benefit and move their crop production plans forward.
For example, drones can be used to fly over a field and take pictures with its camera. The images
can then be pieced together to create a crop health map that identifies different areas in need. The
grower can then georeference that information and use it to make decisions for individual fields.
Although using a drone may seem like a no brainer, growers are often still hesitant to invest in
technology and precision agriculture, especially when margins are tight and commodity prices are
The future for this technology looks promising with 62% of the ag industry potentially looking to
own a UAV in the future. However more than a third still need to be convinced.
Successful Farming released the following statistics from their 2016 Technology in Ag Study:
9% of the ag industry already owns a drone
3% of the ag industry will own a drone within the next 12 months
17% of the ag industry will own a drone within the next one-to-two years
33% of the ag industry will own a drone within two or more years
38% of the ag industry doesn’t plan to purchase a drone
As ag retailers are also adopting the use of drones and using them to provide precision ag services
to growers, the study also discussed drone service options with growers and found:
49% of growers would hire a drone service
36% of growers would purchase a drone on their own to use
15% of growers would hire a drone service and purchase one on their own
With the tougher economic times and lower commodity prices, the adoption rate of investing in drones
might move a little slower, since they do not yet have a proven track record. However, as additional
growers and retailers show how they are successfully creating additional business opportunities with
UAVs, a larger number of growers and retailers will start using them. Until then, the adoption of
this new technology will continue at a slow, yet steady, pace.