The agricultural drones market is flying. A new report from RnR Market Research states that it’s set to be worth nearly $3.7 billion by 2022, while DroneDeploy, a cloud-based software company, revealed that agriculture is the largest commercial sector across its 2 million acres of worldwide coverage. This aligns with predictions from The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International that 80 percent of all drones will be used for agriculture in the near future.
This is good news for the burgeoning ecosystem of drones-related startups targeting the agriculture sector. There have been some complaints and concerns around the efficacy of ag drones today. We wrote a story about this earlier in the year and some farmers we caught up with recently said their drones were still a “toy” that mostly helps them with PR and marketing on their websites.
But in spite of these concerns, investors are clearly confident about the future. In 2015, we recorded over $350 million of investment went into 37 drones companies with ag applications, and these were some of the largest deals across the agtech industry during the year.
The market is also responding to these complaints with a growing number of businesses popping up around drones that are trying to offer farmers more value, without actually selling UAVs.
DroneDeploy’s software service that processes and analyzes drone imagery is one example, but there are other developments in the sensor technology attached to the UAVs, SlantRange is one example.
Satellite imagery-focused companies are also considering how to integrate drone imagery data with their software: this week Cropio revealed to AgFunderNews that it’s the first ERP platform to do this.
The Cyprus-headquartered company now allows customers to upload images from their drones into its software platform to get more detailed information on particular areas of their land at resolutions unavailable with satellite imagery. It also enables them to use drones images when cloud cover impacts the efficacy of satellite imagery.
“We know that a large number of our clients use drones to get more detailed images,” said Anna Moren, product director at Cropio. “That’s why we made it possible for them to upload these pictures directly into the system. I know from our research that we’re the first to do this.”
Cropio’s platform analyze the images in the same way as satellite imagery for monitoring field conditions, creating fertilization maps, predicting yields, and assessing crop health using the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) index. Cropio has clients in 15 countries across 2 million hectares of land.
DroneDeploy, which has mapped land across 100 countries globally, was one of the first startups to see value in not manufacturing drones itself.
“I think we had some good vision and luck when we decided to focus on software instead of hardware back in 2013,” said Darr Gerscovich, SVP of marketing for DroneDeploy. “We saw that eventually hardware would get to where it was robust and safe enough for people to use them off-the-shelf. Instead we wanted to make the sky as productive and accessible to people as possible with our software.”
Other industry insights from DroneDeploy’s recent research report highlight that commercial drones in Europe are primarily used for surveying, while in South America and Oceania they primarily support agriculture.
A drone manufacturer focusing solely on ag — AgEagle — was the second most popular drone according to DroneDeploy’s report, following DJI, China’s leading drone company.
AgEagle was one of the first drones companies in the agriculture sector when the founder and CEO Bret Chilcott began investigating interest in the sector in 2011.
The most popular camera among DroneDeploy’s clients was DJI’s followed by Canon.
To download DroneDeploy’s industry report, click here.
Look out for a Q&A with AgEagle’s business development manager Tom Nichol on AgFunderNews next week where he talks about the sector’s development and the concerns about the efficacy of drones for ag.
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