We had the opportunity to head out to Illinois last week to get one of our drones into the hands a company that some test plots and to set up a booth at the inaugural Precision Aerial Ag Show (PAAS). The show was really illuminating and I was overwhelmed by the general interest in UAVs in ag we saw there. Over a thousand growers attended and we got to see what some of the "competitors" (in quotes because I don't believe any UAV companies are really competing at this point, this is still an all ships rise with the tide industry) were doing first hand.
Collin Snow, who I believe posts here as well, wrote a nice summary at http://droneanalyst.com/2014/07/16/drone-tech-winners-and-losers-at-the-precision-aerial-ag-conference-2014/, but I thought I would add our own take on the show.
Briefly, I was really floored by the enthusiasm from growers. There are a lot of comments here about how to really create value with UAV-collected imagery and, over the course of the show, I think I learned about 100 different ways. From coffee in India to cotton in the South to nuts in California, it seems like every crop could benefit from some drones in some way or another.
Second, I was equally floored by the overemphasis on hardware and underemphasis on data processing. In my opinion, a drone serves only to carry an infrared camera or some other instrument and should be very utilitarian. We have spent the vast majority of our engineering time working on imaging, processing, and ground truthing and were pretty surprised by how much time some of the other companies at the show had spent on airframe design. Price tags tended to be in the low to mid five figures for something that should cost around $1k. The 3DR Aero is really the case in point.
I wrote this up in more detail and posted some pictures in a blog post at http://agribotix.com/blog/2014/7/21/agribotix-takeaways-from-the-2014-precision-aerial-ag-show-in-decatur-il so check it out if you have a chance.