The Finger Lakes Times featured Empire Drone Company in an article about agricultural drone technology! Read the full article below:
SENECA FALLS — It’s hard to say if any of the farmers who saw drone demonstrations Wednesday at Empire Farm Days will ever buy one.
However, judging by the reactions of those who stopped by the CNY Drone Works area, they were fascinated with the technology.
“I had some crop damage from wind once in the middle of a field and never knew about it until harvest time,” said Steve Stocking, who came from Vermont to attend the annual event. “If I had one of these, I would have known right away."
Stocking was one of many farmers who watched John McGraw, co-owner of CNY Drone Works, do demonstrations when it wasn’t raining. McGraw, who retired two years ago after more than 20 years with the Fulton Fire Department in Oswego County, started the business with Sean Falconer, an architect by trade.
“I got into drones about two years before retiring, but I had no idea where this business was going to go,” McGraw said. “Agriculture is a huge market for drones.”
McGraw and his son, Brayden, did several demonstrations for farmers. Brayden flew a smaller drone manually near the demo site, while John took a larger drone out for a mission that went to the far end of the Empire Farm Days layout.
John McGraw’s demonstration was done autonomously. He plugged in coordinates using GPS technology, and the drone took off by itself and went out for four minutes before returning — on its own — and landing right where it started.
The drones range in price from $5,500 to more than $30,000. For agricultural use, they can be programmed to analyze an entire field or certain parts.
“You can take the drone out and scan your field every day,” McGraw said. “It can analyze whether parts of your field are too wet, too dry, need fertilizer, have weeds.”
Data collected by the drone is stored on a SIM card, which is taken out and plugged into a computer. The farmer can then see problem areas in a field, which usually show up in shades of yellow, orange or red depending on the severity.
While some of the drones have a range of up to four miles, McGraw said Federal Aviation Administration rules limit use to line of sight. While there are gas-powered drones, most run off batteries and can map up to 150 acres in about 30 minutes.
CNY Drone Works specializes in sales, training and consulting. McGraw said if a farmer is interested in getting a drone, he and/or Falconer will go to their farm and figure out what is best for them.
“Some of the drones are a ‘turnkey’ package, with the software already installed,” he said. “They are easy to operate right out of the package.”
Falconer also showed farmers a video of a drone in China spraying crops. McGraw said that technology likely will be available in the United States next year.
In addition to agricultural services, CNY Drone Works does thermal imaging services for law enforcement and fire departments, real estate aerial images, construction and site planning, 2-D and 3-D mapping, and roof, tower and wind turbine inspections.
“For farmers, it’s a great way to scout your field without having to set foot in it,” Falconer said.
While McGraw and Falconer were certainly trying to sell drones to farmers who saw the demonstrations, they didn’t make a pitch to Stocking. He already has a drone, though he admitted he has not used it.
“I’m scared to take it out of the barn,” he said with a laugh. “Maybe this will get me thinking otherwise.”