Drone’s eye view without eye watering costs
Hundreds of excited farmers and agronomists who have been on a waiting list will soon be the first to use a new crop monitoring app. Skippy Scout, the mobile phone app developed by Drone Ag uses artificial intelligence to offer guidance on crop health, pests and weed control. Following its launch, and gold innovation award at LAMMA, Skippy will be available for farmers to buy from March 2020.
The crop scouting software, which significantly reduces the time it takes to monitor and evaluate crop problems, will be available to farmers for as little as £30 per month. “Over 300 early users worldwide tested version one of the software in 2019,” says Drone Ag founder, Jack Wrangham. This has created a waiting list for version two, which will be available on 1 March. In just one year Drone Ag expects to subscribe over 1,000 users in the UK alone. 2021 and 2022 will see further launches in the USA and Africa with a projected 10,000 users worldwide by 2023.
Skippy Scout is an autonomous software package that flies drones to points plotted by the farmer using a normal mobile phone. Mr Wrangham says: “Farmers do not need to have prior understanding of drones or the ability to fly a drone because the software will do it all for them. Skippy users will use maps on their phone to simply touch the points in a field they want to see images of. The drone flies to these points and sends the images to the phone. Once delivered, the artificial intelligence in the app analyses the images and provides data on green area index (GAI), pests and weeds.”
A single user software license is available for £30 per month which is less than the average mobile phone contract. There is also relatively little investment needed to buy a suitable drone. “A Mavic Mini is a perfectly suitable drone for crop scouting and can be bought for just £450. This would make the annual use of Skippy £810”, says Mr Wrangham.
A key benefit of the Mavic Mini is its weight. “At just 249 grams it falls one gram below the threshold for registration,” explains Mr Wrangham. Drones under 250 grams do not need to be registered with the Civil Aviation Authority which will save farmers time and hassle with paperwork. “All you need is your smartphone and a drone. When you register for Skippy you can be in the air monitoring your crops on the same day,” explains Mr Wrangham.
Drone Ag has also considered the likelihood that the drones may be damaged. A partnership with drone specialists Heliguy means that Skippy Scout users will be offered replacement drones, and repairs to damaged drones. “It is important that farmers don’t experience significant downtime with any piece of farm machinery and drones should be no exception,” concludes Mr Wrangham.