DJI, the world’s largest civilian and commercial drone manufacturer, recently announced plans to invest more resources in agricultural drones.
This comes in the wake of a slowdown in civilian sales. The company seems to be betting on the more stable and dependable commercial sector to drive future demand.
Why consumer drone sales are falling
Although civilian drone use has exploded in the recent past, UAVs are still viewed with suspicion by the public. Reasons include:
Safety and security concerns
High profile drone-related news reports have tarnished the image of recreational drone operators. A prime example is the 2018’s Gatwick drone incident. Despite the line of visibility restrictions, drones are still considered potential safety risks to other aircraft as well as the public.
There are increasing reports of drone hacking claims. There is a risk that a drone can be hacked and commandeered to perform illegal activities such as stealing sensitive data.
Because they’re reconnaissance devices, drones are bound to raise privacy concerns. Most property owners are also worried about aerial trespass. Operators are increasingly signing up for insurance, although there’s still some dispute over liability in case of a drone-related accident.
As UAV use expands, more attempts are being made to regulate their use. Other than the FAA, states and lobbyists are beginning to debate on new drone laws. This could complicate matters further for hobbyists.
To tackle some of these concerns, DJI introduced geofencing features in its drones. Although meant to prevent drone operators from trespassing in sensitive areas, the development attracted criticism from some consumers.
They believe geofencing will further limit their recreational activities.
Given these developments, commercial drone sales seem like a safer bet for DJI.
Their operators are better organized and more likely to adhere to regulations.
They’re also more inclined to make large orders for large-scale agricultural or other commercial projects.
The regulatory atmosphere for commercial drone operators is also getting more flexible with the FAA more willing to relax specific rules such as keeping the drone within line of sight.
DJI’s agricultural drones
Agras MG-1S is DJI’s flagship agricultural drone.
The octocopter was designed with efficiency, functionality, and precision in mind. Through its robust propulsion system, it can carry a maximum payload of 10 kg.
This includes pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizer.
To map the area to be sprayed, you only need to walk around it with the controller. The flight path will be automatically saved and can be used more than once.
The MG-1S can spray 60-80 acres per day. In the past, human workers using manual pumps would barely cover 1 acre per day.
The drone has three downward sensors that keep it remarkably stable even when spraying on uneven fields. It always maintains the same height, no matter the terrain. This enables it to consistently spray the field, including the lower parts of plants and under the leaves.
Its dual delivery pumps are also designed to prioritize stability. The two nozzles at the front and back maintain consistency even when the drone changes speed.
Features of DJI’s agricultural drones
DJI’s agricultural drones come with advanced flight control systems. The three available flight modes are:
It allows even novice pilots to use buttons to plan flight paths without needing mapping knowledge or specialized software.
Manual plus mode
This is especially convenient for irregularly shaped fields. The operator can use the same inputs as used before in smart mode.
It’s a freestyle option that allows the pilot to navigate the drone in any direction freely.
Another feature is the drone’s intelligent memory (IM).
While flying, it saves the coordinates and can access them at a future date.
If you have to replace the battery before the drone is done, it will use its IM function to resume spraying exactly where it had stopped.
Their foldable designs point to DJI’s commitment to making things simple and practical.
The design makes storage and transportation easier.
The drone’s professional controller comes with an HD screen for more straightforward navigation.
Perhaps the MG-1S’ most useful feature is its agriculture management platform. It allows you to manage a team of operators using the drone.
You can also assign fields to individual operators, which makes the overall output more valuable. This does an excellent job of avoiding repetitions.
Benefits of DJI’s agricultural drones
Some of the benefits offered by DJI’s agricultural drones are:
- Easy to use and maintain. One person can spray tens of acres within hours, a feat that would have taken days with manual pumps. Maintaining MG-1S is a walk in the park. After use, it only takes a few steps to disassemble and pack. Its sealed body and the efficient cooling system prevent corrosion caused by dust, water, and the elements.
- Affordable. The time saved using this drone translates to direct cost savings. In the past, you’d need to hire tens of people to spray your crop manually. Often, they’d need more than a day to complete the job. Now you only need a drone operated by one person.
- DJI drones are built to last. The nozzles are made from long-lasting material that can withstand thousands of hours of spraying missions. The body and controller are waterproof as well.
Final thoughts about DJI’s agricultural drones
There are of course competing ag drones DJI has to contend with. But if their success with camera drones is any indication, their focus on agricultural drones should scare competitors.