“Farmers can fly the field at 11 o’clock in the morning, and after lunch be applying chemicals with pinpoint accuracy,” said Bret Chilcott, founder of AgEagle, which makes drones for the agricultural industry. “What that does is it saves the farmer a ton of money. Chemicals are really expensive.”
He’s been testing DroneDeploy’s software on his drones for about 10 months ahead of Tuesday’s official release, and says he’s found nothing that measures up to it. Chilcott believes DroneDeploy’s dominance could be on a Google or Microsoft type level.
With DroneDeploy a drone can be easily told to fly on autopilot over a farmer’s fields. Shortly after the drone lands a farmer will already be able to review the maps and data gathered by the drone. With NDVI data, a farmer can what portions of his fields are healthy, and what portions aren’t.
He can then download a geotagged image out of DroneDeploy and upload that into his usual farming software to apply a dose of fertilizer to only the area of his field that is in need.
A farmer will be able to enjoy the utility drones offer without having to learn to fly one, or hire a drone pilot. The only required skill is a familiarity with operating a smartphone or tablet app. DroneDeploy automatically processes in the cloud the data gathered to provide less work to farmers.
“Previously people knew there’s tons of potential with drones, they can do lots of things. But they’re just really hard to start using because they’re so complicated,” said DroneDeploy chief executive Mike Winn. “Anyone knows how to push a button on a screen. With our product you don’t need to use multiple devices and multiple pieces of software.”
DroneDeploy says its app will be available for $99 a month. Its audience is strictly commercial. For farmers look to cut down on their chemical or water bills, that $99 could go a long way.
Winn sees the biggest opportunity for DroneDeploy now in agriculture, but other potential uses could include monitoring quarries and construction sites and taking real estate photography videos.
DroneDeploy also announced Tuesday it has raised $9 million in Series A funding, which was led by Emergence Capital. Kevin Spain will be joining its board of directors. Winn wanted to work with Emergence Capital because of its experience with enterprise cloud companies.
DroneDeploy currently has 12 employees and that figure should grow. Its three founders are South African, and two have PhDs in machine learning.
The app can be downloaded on iOS and Android devices.