Many retailers know approximately what a drone might cost. Fewer know what return on that agtech investment might bring – but a new report brings fresh ROI insights.

DroneDeploy, a cloud-based software platform for commercial drone use, has now been used on 10 million acres, and the company celebrated this milestone by analyzing drone uses, frequency of flights and that all-important ROI. CEO Mike Winn says on average, users are capturing around $15 per acre on their farm.

“A lot of people are using this technology and putting it to work,” he says.

According to DroneDeploy’s analysis, 60% of their users are creating drone maps at least once a week. That’s up from 40% a year ago, Winn says – and he expects the trend to continue.

“People are using them more and more,” he says. “Some customers have ambitions to use it daily.”

That includes 20% of users flying with two or more drones, up 12% from last year, Winn says.

Another insight gleaned from the report: multi-rotor drones are being adopted much faster that their fixed-wing counterparts. A total of 97% of drone mapping is done by multi-rotor drones, according to the DroneDeploy report. Winn says there are clear advantages and disadvantages for each style of drone, but multi-rotor models tend to be less expensive, easier to use and easier to land safely.

Because drones are relatively inexpensive – several packages come in at well under $1,000 – Winn says the popularity of individual models surge and shrink quickly. For example, a year ago, the DJI Phantom 3 Pro was the most popular model, accounting for nearly half of the mapping done by Drone Deploy users. Today, only about 15% of the mapping done is from the Phantom 3 Pro. The current market leader is the DJI Phantom Pro, but its usage has already peaked, beginning to be replaced by the Phantom 4 Pro and Mavic models, according to the report.

Now that the FAA Part 107 ruling is in place, it provides the regulatory framework for many more commercial drone operators to enter the agricultural sector, Winn says. Getting started has never been easier, he says.

“If you want to fly commercially, you have to take a test; it’s not unlike getting your driver’s license,” he says.

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