Drones are quickly revolutionizing agriculture, effectively taking photographs, tracking field health and irrigation, and engaging in precision seed planting and crop spraying. If you don’t yet have an ag drone, there’s a good chance you might in the future. We’ve previously outlined why ag drones are becoming a major farming tool, as well as what to consider when buying an ag drone. But while it’s great to know the benefits and what to look for when making a purchase, none of that does you any good if you don’t know how to use and maintain the drone once you have one. So today we’re breaking down a few important tips and best practices for owning and operating an ag drone:
1. Know the law. You’ll need to register your ag drone with the FAA and keep up with all federal, state, and local guidelines, which are continually changing as this technology develops. You may even want to check with your lawyer and insurance agent, just to be safe.
2. Read the manual. An ag drone is not a television you can just plug-in and expect to work without instructions – it’s a complicated and expensive piece of technology that you’ll want to operate competently and safely, for the sake of the drone and everyone around it. So read the manual closely and file it for later reference.
3. Practice. Developing your ability to efficiently operate your ag drone is not a quick process – you’ll need to take time to learn the controls. For safety, start in an open area and practice both manual and programmed flights. To continue developing your piloting skills, gain more diverse experience by maintaining different altitudes, using various cameras, traveling new flight paths, and flying during all times of the day.
4. Follow a Pre-Flight Checklist. Before operation, make sure your ag drone is prepared for a safe and effective flight. Your pre-flight check should include calibrating the drone’s compass, ensuring the battery is fully charged, reviewing any system notifications, and checking the drone’s propellers and landing gear, as well as all nuts and bolts. If you are using a rotor-wing drone, you can also hover in place for a bit to verify aerial stability before having the drone begin its work.
5. Stay Alert. The most common reason manual drone flights crash is due to pilot inattention. When operating your ag drone, always keep it within your field of sight, watch out for trees, birds, and other obstacles, and keep the drone level and below the 400-foot federal altitude limit. You also should not be using the ag drone in public or in bad weather, so avoid flying around pedestrians or in rain, fog, lightening, snow, or strong wind.
6. Prepare for the Inevitable. You should know up-front: Batteries will drain and your drone will crash. Sorry, it’s just the reality of ag drone operation, but you can prepare by having multiple batteries and spare parts available for when they inevitably will be needed. When flying, always be sure to leave enough battery for the return flight, keeping in mind that while flying lower allows for better field-imaging, flying higher covers more ground faster with less battery use.
From preparing to fly to practicing your piloting skills, we hope these tips are helpful for when you own and operate your own ag drone. And we want to hear from you – do you use drones in your work? What tips do you have for ag drone operation? Let us know in the comments below.
About the Author
Ethan is a Content Curator for Trader Interactive, serving the commercial brands Commercial Truck Trader, Commercial Web Services, and Equipment Trader. Ethan believes in using accessible language to elevate conversations about industry topics relevant to commercial dealers and their buyers.