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Thinking about a UAS system for your farm?

January 3, 2014 by Peter

This past year has been a fun adventure for me as an ag retailer! One of the additions to our team has been very valuable. Words I would use to describe this addition would be: dependable, useful, able to provide a new perspective, and fun to be around!

In case you’re wondering, I’m not talking about a new employee. I am referring to a UAS system that we purchased for use on the farm. You may be wondering what a UAS system is. I’ve received many questions from growers, ag retailers and others about what they are, how they can be used, and where you can purchase them. Hopefully this post will be a good compilation of that knowledge and answer some basic questions.  I’ll put them here in no particular order.

1.  What does UAS mean?  

UAS refers to a “Unmanned Aerial System”.  These have also been referred to as “drones” but I try to avoid that word, as it misleads people and can lead to misunderstandings.

2. What type of UAS systems are there on the market?

There are many systems available, depending on your needs and budget.  I’d like to focus on one particular brand and model, as I think it’s a great starter package that will be applicable to most people who read this article.

3.  Which system are you going to talk about?  

Great question!  The model that I purchased and use is the DJI Phantom.  This is a great starter system with powerful  features for beginners and experts alike.

4.  What are some ways you use this on your operation?

I’ve used this on a trial basis for aerial scouting and imagery.  You can quickly get an aerial view of a field with both pictures and video to identify all sorts of issues:  stand, weeds, etc.

 5.  What type of accessories should I buy with it?

I highly recommend buying the following accessories with the Phantom initially:  extra batteries (at least 3), a travel case, GoPro camera (silver or black), a good charger, a battery checker (so you can see what charge the battery has before starting flight!), extra batteries for your camera, and an SD card for the camera.

6.  How much does it cost?  

The system I bought cost about $1000.  The Phantom was about $450, case was $225, camera was about $200, batteries cost $100, then taxes/shipping.

7.  How long do the batteries last?  What type of range does it have?

The batteries last 8-13 minutes, depending on what you’re carrying (camera, gimbal, etc) and also depending on how much you maneuver or the wind conditions.  The controller has a 1000m range, but I don’t fly that far away because it becomes difficult to see it!  The unit is really fun to fly at dusk, there are LED lights on the bottom that make it easy to see and tell which direction is facing front.

For some example pictures of flights I have done, please check out the gallery on  Also check out a video I put on youtube of soybean harvest:


More to come including:  first flight tips/tricks, maintaining your Phantom, features/other considerations, and more!

Questions?  Comments?  Send me an e-mail or talk to me on twitter – @peetnd.

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