On May 31, drone users, UAS enthusiasts, and those brand-new to the industry gathered in Fargo, ND for the third-annual Drone Focus Conference. The two-day event brought together hobbyists and professionals to learn, share ideas, and connect.
RDO Equipment Co. welcomed two speakers to Drone Focus, Jason Barton of Agribotix and Nathan Stein of senseFly. Both spoke about UAS in agriculture, with Jason discussing opportunities of implementing precision ag technology, drones included, but also the challenge of technology adaption by farmers.
Nate Dorsey, Agronomist, added insight to Jason’s message, “We find, while most farmers know and use the basics, the majority aren’t aware how capable their machines really are and how much functionality they have. We’re trying to help our customers understand all the technology offered.”
In his presentation, Nathan [Stein] touched on the effects of UAS technology on agronomy, saying, “Agronomy and the way plants grow isn’t going to change. But by fusing agronomy with the information we’re gathering from drones, that’s when good decisions can be made.”
Nate [Dorsey] agreed, explaining the data is key in detecting problems early. “We provide customers, and the agronomists they work with, the data to help make decisions that can prevent problems and yield loss,” he said.
Jason and Nathan joined a lineup of notable speakers that included U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, U.S. Senator (R-ND) John Hoeven, and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum. All three leaders had a similar message in the rapid evolution of technology and the industry, and that the future of autonomy is headed beyond drones.
Bill Edmonson, UAV Product Specialist in Billings, hosted a workshop that demonstrated opportunities with swarming – operating more than one drone simultaneously. This was important message for Drone Focus attendees, who, throughout the event, heard about several areas of opportunity for swarming in areas like agriculture, pipeline, and search and rescue missions.
Swarming offers major advantages, with two, three, or even ten drones working together able to cover more area, and cover it faster, than one. Bill highlighted the RDO Equipment Co. team’s experience in swarming from an event last October – a fully-coordinated, planned mission of ten senseFly eBee drones flying simultaneously.
The first Drone Focus Conference was all about possibilities, while last year presenters began sharing initial experiences. This year, the industry’s maturity was even more evident, with several UAS-specific companies discussing services and expertise, as well as a greater number of seasoned experts sharing their knowledge.
Three of these experts, RDO Equipment Co. customers, participated in a panel discussion. Ryan Otis, Otis Farms and Ryan Rustan, Blattner Energy, are both professionals who have successfully implemented drones into their business, while Joey Schmit of Flight Pros is a provider of UAS technology services.
The panel cited data management as the biggest challenge in the industry. To help manage it and expectations, all agreed that it’s important to first understand the goals of the data, then work back to base a plan on achieving them.
“The info shared by our customers provided great value to attendees,” Kelly Gress, Vice President of the RDO Integrated Controls division, said. “Thank you to Joey, Ryan, and Ryan for taking the time to share their unique insights and experiences with drones in their businesses.”
A final message from the panel was one that came up in other presentations throughout the conference: Drones can’t and won’t ever fully replace traditional methods. They’re a great tool to have in the toolbox but people are still needed to understand them, operate them, and turn the data they produce into actions.
If this year’s event proved one thing it’s that autonomous technology isn’t going away, and the RDO Equipment Co. team continues to lead in delivering the UAS solutions customers are and will be demanding.
Contact the RDO Equipment Co. team to learn how we can help you implement UAS technology to your business and bring the benefits to your bottom line.