Agricultural Drone: The Ideal drone

An interview with an agricultural drone company. We have been working with agricultural drones for eight years. On this basis, we began to develop a radiation-resistant drone. After the completion of this project, we began to deal with drones for various applications.

Our main product was a drone – a platform for environmental monitoring, video filming, and cargo transportation. Each complex was individually manufactured. Such a system was poorly scalable. We worked in a small market segment – innovative. Over time, we began to see that more and more consumers are beginning to understand what drones are and that they can be used for different purposes. We had an idea to form a standardized product that would not require individual development every time. To do this, it was necessary to focus on one area. And make a clear decision for it.

Why this particular area or agricultural drone? Because, firstly, this is the largest segment of civilian drone applications. Secondly, since we came out of the academic environment, we had and still have connections with various universities and research institutes. From which we had an understanding of how to assemble a group of scientists who will help make the final product not in the form of a drone, but in the form of data that the farmer needs. As we found out, such a product requires deep scientific development.

And what tasks does the agricultural drone solve to obtain this product? 

At the moment, it is not important for a farmer or an agrochemical company that he is flying over the field; the main thing for him is to obtain accurate and easy-to-understand data. The agricultural drone itself solves one problem – the problem of placing the desired payload, in the form of sensors in the right places above the field and returning these sensors safe and sound.

This is if we talk about our area – about the area of ​​agricultural analytics. For spraying, there will be another task – to place the tanks and nozzles on the field. That is if we talk about the product, the main product of the company is not a drone? Our main product is analytics, data that tells about what is happening in the field and what needs to be done to increase the yield, or reduce costs, or optimize processes. 

Who is your customer? Farmer, government agencies, agrochemical companies. How are you different from other companies on the market? The first thing that distinguishes us is the concentration on the tasks of the agricultural drone or sector. If you look at other companies that claim to have agricultural drone systems for the agro-industrial sector, you can see that most of the activities of such companies are far from CX, but mapping, analytics, etc. Other features follow from this. Close interaction with customers.

We have learned to understand what they need. If you take an ordinary farmer or agrochemical company, they don’t understand the usual data that can be obtained with spectral cameras. The same NDVI is not clear to the farmer. And these multi-colored cards form only the illusion of comprehensibility because the decision to paint the colors is made by the human analyst based on his ideas that red is bad, yellow is average, and green is good. Or the program has already set what colors mean what.

It takes a lot of work to produce data that the farmer can understand. Because it is not one company, it is a group of companies. A group that brings together agricultural specialists and drone specialists. And with the help of this combination, we conduct field experiments that lead to the formation of algorithms for the formation of databases, with the use of which we obtain simple data that the farmer understands.

We have our own fields, where we grow plants, conduct experiments with them, first we shoot with spectral cameras, then we conduct experiments in the form of ground spectrometry, we pull out these plants and carry them to the laboratory, where we conduct analytics, compile correlation databases that connect all these indicators, as a result, we get a working algorithm.

An integrated approach from the side of science is our main difference, which lies in the data that we issue. What is the cost of your product? Depends on several parameters: the volume of the order of space and the volume of analytics. For one type of analytics, you need to make one flyby, and for another type, five flights.

The factor of the remoteness of the farm from our bases with an agricultural drone also affects. Do you only sell complexes or provide a service?  We can sell our agricultural drones with an implementation program or offer services. What is, in your opinion, the most effective economic model for the commercialization of business in this market?  Now we are launching a comprehensive offer in order to understand which implementations are more needed by the market, since we proceed from market demands, from customer requests. The business model also comes from this.

Rob Prosser