April 19

The Sky’s the Limit

With the brand new DJI T40 Agras Agricultural Drone

In the early 1940s, IBM’s president at the time, Thomas J Watson, reputedly said: “I think there is a world market for about five computers.” 50 years later, in 1981 IBM launched the IBM personal computer, selling up to 40,000 units a month. The growth of the Personal Computer since that time needs no further explanation.

This often quoted example demonstrates that people closest to an industry often can’t predict the trajectory of technological innovation and the resultant consumer adoption, particularly if they are only looking at things through a traditional mindset of where the technology is at a fixed point in time.

The study of the diffusion of innovation looks at how adoption of a new idea, behaviour, or product (i.e. ‘innovation’) does not happen to everyone simultaneously; rather it is a process whereby some people are more open to adopting the innovation than others. There are five established adopter categories of people.

    1. Innovators – These are people who want to be the first to try the innovation

    1. Early Adopters – These are people who represent opinion leaders. They enjoy leadership roles, and embrace change opportunities

    1. Early Majority – These people are rarely leaders, but they do adopt new ideas before the average person

    1. Late Majority – These people are skeptical of change, and will only adopt an innovation after it has been tried by the majority.

    1. Laggards – These people are bound by tradition and very conservative. They are very skeptical of change and are the hardest group to bring on board.

Most people are either early or late majority, but its interesting to note how you react to new technology as it informs you as to the lens you view the world, particularly in regards to the adoption of new technology.

What we also know is that the advancement of technology is happening at an exponential rate. On average, computer power is doubling every two years. The markets of IoT (internet connected devices) is growing at a rate that is hard to comprehend – hundreds of new IoT devices are connecting to the internet every second. It’s estimated that there will be 40 billion Internet of Things-connected devices around the world by 2025. The AI (artificial intelligence) industry is doubling in size every four years.

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, agriculture is right in the cross hairs of the application of all of this technological advancement. Sitting right in between all of this technological innovation in AI and IoT, we find the emergence of drones.

The origins of Drones, or UAV’s (unmanned autonomous vehicles) have a military origin that go back to the 1930s, although it was not until the 1970s that the Israeli’s perfected the technology as a proven force multiplier in battle.

The Consumer Drone market began in the early 2000s and DJI emerged as a revolutionary innovator in the space in 2013 with the introduction of the first camera equipped consumer drone, the Phantom. This success led DJI to hold a commanding 80% of the consumer drone marketplace.

Agricultural drone applications were first developed in the year 2000 by Yamaha, and DJI entered the agricultural drone space in 2015 with the launch of the Agras MG-1. The Agras MG-1 could carry a 10kg payload and could cover 7-10 acres per hour.

DJI have continued the innovation trend that they are known for and in 2022 the latest DJI Agras T-40 has a payload of 40kg and a spray rate of 21 hectares per hour, making it 5 times more efficient than its predecessor.

Article by Andrew Maughan

Pursehouse Rural have been early adopters of agricultural technology for decades, dating back to the 1960s and 1970s with the introduction of aerial spraying by manned aircraft. In recent years we have invested in a number of aerial drone spraying and mapping opportunities with varying success. We know from first-hand experience that pioneering innovation can be a tough road.

We also know that there is a huge amount of interest from farmers in regards to ag tech in general, and in regards to mapping and spray drones specifically.

For this reason we recently ran an informative workshop and display of the DJI T-40 spray drone. Over 50 customers attended the event at Breeza Station to see and hear first-hand the operational stats and to get up close to the technology.

The event was presented by Jim Dula, head of agriculture drones for D1 Drones Australia. Donald Barwick, a local farmer and drone contractor was also in attendance to give his account of how well these drones operate in the field.

Several customers who attended the event have already purchased spray and mapping drones and many more have invested in camera drones out of general interest in the technology. Some are using drones to check water troughs, fences or surveying flood damage etc.

There is no doubt that there are very practical use cases for the T40 spray drones in gullies or culverts and marginal country unsuitable for, or inaccessible to boom spray operators and for the application of fertiliser, pesticides and herbicides. These drones are also applicable for small holdings for the additional application of seed.

There are also increasing environmental regulations that are making it impossible for aerial spray or fertiliser applications by plane due to the risk of overspray to adjoining properties. In these cases drones are proving highly effective and cost comparative on an hourly hire rate.

Whilst these drones can be set to run a map program over orchards or crops, they are unmatched in their ability to spot spray over woody weeds such as blackberry and all varieties of weeds that require management and are typically located in hard to access areas.

It is clear that drones are here to stay in the ag sector and we can expect more innovation, greater application and lower costs as the technology matures.


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