Dakota Farmer

What drone should you start with?

Find out what unmanned aerial vehicle fits best for your farm operation.

Sarah McNaughton, Editor, Dakota Farmer

July 31, 2023

1 Min Read
man flying drone over rapeseed field
DRONE VIEWS: Farmers may decide between several types of UAVs to add to their precision-ag management. But is a multi-rotor or fixed-wing drone better for your operation? Richard Newstead/Getty Images

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, may be the first step farmers take to integrate precision agriculture on their operations. With different styles, models and features of drones on the market, how can you determine which may be the best fit?

North Dakota State University Extension shares what to consider when selecting a small UAV for your farm. Small UAVs can be divided into two categories: multi-rotor and fixed wing.

Multi-rotor unit

Multi-rotor UAVs are any aircraft with more than two motors, which often have a fixed-pitch blade. These drones have the advantage of more stability and power during flight, as well as the ability to take off and land without direct assistance.

Common examples of this machine type include:

  • DJI Phantom and Mavic Pro

  • Matrice Series 100 and 600

  • Agras MG-1

Costs for these craft can start at around $500 on up to $15,000 and beyond, including software packages. Many of these options offer easy assembly and flight, and variable camera options.

Fixed-wing UAV

Fixed-wing UAVs generate lift through a stationary wing. These crafts have longer flight times than their multi-rotor competitors but require a runway to be launched by the operator. The benefit to this option is that fixed-wing aircraft use less power to stay in the air, as the wings generate lift rather than the blades.

These options might take more out of your operating budget, with prices running as high as $42,000. However, the fixed-wing models can carry more advanced cameras with a higher payload.

Popular models include:

  • eBee Series

  • Delair UXS

  • RF-70

  • Lancaster 5

No matter if you’re looking for a beginner-friendly option to dip your toe into precision ag, or want to go all out with top-of-the-line options, a little research can help you select the best model for your farm.

NDSU Extension contributed to this article.

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About the Author(s)

Sarah McNaughton

Editor, Dakota Farmer, Farm Progress

Sarah McNaughton of Bismarck, N.D., has been editor of Dakota Farmer since 2021. Before working at Farm Progress, she was an NDSU 4-H Extension agent in Cass County, N.D. Prior to that, she was a farm and ranch reporter at KFGO Radio in Fargo.

McNaughton is a graduate of North Dakota State University, with a bachelor’s degree in ag communications and a master’s in Extension education and youth development.

She is involved in agriculture in both her professional and personal life, as a member of North Dakota Agri-Women, Agriculture Communicators Network Sigma Alpha Professional Agriculture Sorority Alumni and Professional Women in Agri-business. As a life-long 4-H’er, she is a regular volunteer for North Dakota 4-H programs and events.

In her free time, she is an avid backpacker and hiker, and can be found most summer weekends at rodeos around the Midwest.

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