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Buy a UAV now or wait for the latest and greatest technology?

Chad Colby says there comes a time when it makes sense to jump in and get your feet wet.

Tom Bechman 1

September 6, 2016

3 Min Read

The question was bound to come up at a meeting where farmers and FFA members listened and watched as Chad Colby explained features of unmanned aerial vehicles and then flew the UAVs. If you are considering buying a UAV, should you buy now or wait until all this great technology that people like Colby describe is incorporated into new models?

Colby is general manager of Central Illinois Ag, a Case IH dealer in Atlanta, Ill., and a self-taught expert on UAVs and how to fly them legally. He appeared at a "drone school" sponsored by four county Farm Bureaus in west-central Indiana.

“My advice is to by now, learn how to fly and get valuable experience,” Colby says.

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Use the analogy of picking the right time to buy a new car. If your grandfather had waited to upgrade until he thought the latest model produced finally had all the latest and greatest features, he still would have been driving a Model T Ford when his friends were tooling around in Mustangs.

Here are three reasons why Colby suggests buying a drone now. And as a disclaimer, he doesn’t sell UAVs!

1. New technology will keep coming.

What you’ve seen so far in advancements in drone technology in agriculture is likely the tip of the iceberg, Colby explains. Yes, cellular technology that greatly enhances data delivery could be available in as soon as 12 months. But if you wait for it, you’ll miss out on a year’s worth of learning how to fly and a year’s worth of data you could collect.

2. There's no perfect time to pull the trigger.

The most popular UAV sold today is the Phantom Series from DJI, Colby notes. Many people still fly Phantom 2 models. Phantom 3 models are out there and Phantom 4 models are now available. “Should you wait for the model 5?” Colby asks. “If you do that, maybe you should wait for the model 6. They will be here sooner or later. The point is that improvement in this technology isn’t going to stop. 

“There is no magic right time to buy one if you haven’t already. At some point, you just need to buy one, use it, and then worry about upgrading later, after important new technology becomes available.”

3. Upgrade now while current model still has resale value.

This applies if you already have a UAV and are wondering when you should upgrade to the next technology so you can do more and do it more efficiently. Suppose you have a Phantom 2, Colby says. You can likely still get a decent resale price, and put that money toward buying a newer model. At some point, Phantom 2 models won’t have much value, he adds.

“There are many UAVs out there from other companies that people paid lots of money for that are basically worthless today,” he says. “Their resale value is zero. Technology already passed them by. You don’t want to be that person.”

About the Author(s)

Tom Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

Tom Bechman is an important cog in the Farm Progress machinery. In addition to serving as editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer, Tom is nationally known for his coverage of Midwest agronomy, conservation, no-till farming, farm management, farm safety, high-tech farming and personal property tax relief. His byline appears monthly in many of the 18 state and regional farm magazines published by Farm Progress.

"I consider it my responsibility and opportunity as a farm magazine editor to supply useful information that will help today's farm families survive and thrive," the veteran editor says.

Tom graduated from Whiteland (Ind.) High School, earned his B.S. in animal science and agricultural education from Purdue University in 1975 and an M.S. in dairy nutrition two years later. He first joined the magazine as a field editor in 1981 after four years as a vocational agriculture teacher.

Tom enjoys interacting with farm families, university specialists and industry leaders, gathering and sifting through loads of information available in agriculture today. "Whenever I find a new idea or a new thought that could either improve someone's life or their income, I consider it a personal challenge to discover how to present it in the most useful form, " he says.

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