Agriculture drones attain new heights


A Rantizo agriculture drone operates over crops. CREDIT RANTIZO
A Rantizo agriculture drone operates over crops. CREDIT RANTIZO

While many headwinds rocked the agriculture world in 2022, one constant remained the same — agriculture’s propensity to innovate. Drone crop spraying is one such innovative tool for countless farmers and ranchers across the country, said Rantizo president and COO Joe Riley.

“Early innovators became early adopters in 2022,” said Mr. Riley in a news release. “2023 will be the year they become the early majority.”

Rantizo is an Iowa City-based precision agriculture company that gives farmers in multiple states the ability to spray crops using drones. Its software integrates with digital ag tools, according to its Linkedin page.

In 2022 alone, Rantizo drones flew over 216% more acres than in 2021, while adding nearly 100 additional drones and pilots to their fleet.

Agriculture drones rapidly adopted

When drones for spraying started to become part of the conversation in 2018, the idea seemed farfetched to many. Frequently thought of more as a toy than a tool, drones have become meaningful tools for producers.

“The August 2020 derecho that decimated cornfields throughout Iowa is a perfect example of how drones are a solution for several headwinds,” said Mr. Riley in a statement. “Drones were able to apply cover crops on those decimated cornfields. As we head into 2023, drought conditions are still very top of mind. Drones are a great fit for drought conditions when reducing input costs and maintaining crop and soil health is crucial.”

The very first drone Rantizo used for demonstrating, testing and applying could cover a single acre in one hour. Now, drones can carry 10, 30, and even 40 liters of liquid payload. At standard labeled rates, that means drones approved for operation in the United States can now cover anywhere from 6-26 acres in one hour, according to a press release.

Mr. Riley added these tools are needed for a farmer or rancher’s competitive advantage.

New heights in 2023

Rantizo became the first company in Iowa to have all licensing and permissions from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to perform aerial application services with a drone. They then quickly expanded into multiple surrounding states.

In 2020, they became the first company approved to operate multiple drones simultaneously (swarming) in all 48 contiguous states.

Rantizo expects a new technology, known as remote identificatio, to become relevant by September as a new process for unique drone identification within the National Air Space.

“Remote ID is a necessary step in bringing the drone industry as a whole (even beyond agriculture) together,” said Mr. Riley in a statement. “Our communities expect a safe airspace, regardless of drone type. Whether it’s package deliveries by drone, commuter planes or ag spray drones, all need to operate safely within the same air space; this requires remote ID.”


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