Drones much more than toys for farmers

Australian Financial Review - Emily Parkinson

Type: Article
Knowledge level: Introductory

Farm Table says:

Really enjoyed this article - well-written, measured and provided some really great insights that seem to break through the rhetoric surrounding drones.

This article opens with the statement “Drones have captured the public imagination with much the same fervour as might a toy at Christmas”. The reporter aims looks beyond the “faddish appeal” to understand how unmanned airborne vehicles (UAVs) may just become “the future workhorses of the agricultural sector”.

Will Bignell, of DroneAg in Tasmania comments that the future of drones is more than looking at just the off-the-shelf drone a farmer might buy. It is all about “data quality, data understanding and data manipulation”.


Bignell uses drones in Tasmania to collate data for the poppy industry in order to give extra yield to alkaloid opium production. His UAVs can draft maps of an entire 750ha farm and produce a 3D map within 5cm of accuracy.

Bignell states that the farmers using drones in this way are generally the “top-performing famers”; most of the other big ticket items like drainage, fencing, irrigation set up and system design have already been worked out.

“They’ve already done it right. Now they’re chasing that extra 10 per cent – that extra chunk of ground that wasn’t performing as it should.”


Additional comments from Bignell in the article include:

  • In some cases, been oversold to farmers, particularly in the growing market for do it yourself drones for crop-scouting.
  • A lot of these guys are just setting the drone up and going, ‘Oh yeah, this is my problem’. They are not taking the next step into data handling.”
  • Currently only 5% of farmers can afford his technology, usually those in high-yield crops like poppies.
  • “We believe everyone who has hired us had made their money back, if not doubled it, in first production”


2016 - Australia - Australian Financial Review - Emily Parkinson
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