DECATUR, Ill. — Rantizo provides a turnkey opportunity for those interested in developing a drone business for applying products to crop acres.
“We make jumping into drone custom application a quick process,” said Ben Etsinger, sales manager for Rantizo.
“In two weeks time, we can get a drone in your hands and fly with you so you’re comfortable with our training in Iowa City, Iowa,” Etsinger said from the Rantizo booth at the Farm Progress Show. “We will give you tips and tricks when it comes to safety and operational efficiency and you can take an assembled drone home to start offering services in your area.”
There are three licenses to fly a drone, whether a person is flying the drone on their own crop acres or offering a custom application service to other farmers.
“You need a FAA Part 107 drone pilot’s license and in Illinois an Illinois Commercial Aerial Applicator License,” Etsinger said. “Both of these you can get pretty easily as an individual.”
In addition, a drone pilot needs a FAA Part 137.
“A Part 107 allows you to fly a drone for commercial use below the 55-pound weight limit, but as soon as you want to spray, you need a Part 137 which is the same license required for the airplane and helicopter industry,” Etsinger said.
“It’s quite a process and it takes at minimum six months and likely eight to 12 months, but you can come to Rantizo for two weeks of training and fly under our umbrella for the FAA Part 137.”
Rantizo now has 50 licensed contractors that are located from Pennsylvania to California.
“Some are flying one drone and some own six,” Etsinger said. “If you want something specific sprayed, we can line up one of our guys to do that.”
Drones have the ability to apply dry or liquid products, as well as seed cover crops.
“For cover crops we can do a mix with radishes at 7 to 15 pounds per acre,” Etsinger said. “There are fields calling for cover crops that are small awkward acres where an airplane doesn’t feel safe flying.”
For dry application, Etsinger said, drones are able to do site specific applications where there is a micro nutrient deficiency.
“We can load our dry spreader with manganese, granular zinc or boron and put it on acres that are showing micro nutrient deficiency symptoms,” he said.
Options for liquid product applications are more vast.
“In an 80-acre field you may have disease in a certain area or insects in 20% of the field,” Etsinger said. “We are very efficient in identifying those spots and applying chemistry only where it’s needed.”
Utilizing a drone reduces the chemical costs, since the product is only applied where it needs to go instead of the entire field.
“All over the U.S., there are 8- to 15-acre fields, oddly shaped that a ground rig isn’t efficient at making an application or an airplane pilot doesn’t feel safe making an application,” Etsinger said.
“We can dispatch our drones to those acres and we’re making the airplanes and helicopters more safe and the ground rigs more efficient by staying in the fields they are cut out for.”
To spray a larger field, Rantizo has the ability to link two or three drones to a single remote.
“For a 30-acre field we assign 10 acres to each drone,” Etsinger said. “Once we have drones assigned to sections of the field, we press go and from there we’re scanning the sky to make sure there are no obstructions and as they run out of product the drones come back home and we refill them.”
Wind can have an impact on the battery life for the drones.
“Our drones are RTK equipped so they follow a precise line of application in the field,” Etsinger said. “If we have a 20 mph wind, the propellers and motors are going to run and turn faster which will affect the battery life.”
The capabilities of the drones are typically not limited due to wind.
“It’s the products we are applying because the labels have a legal wind description,” Etsinger said. “The labels will limit us before the drone capability will.”
“To think that applying products with drones is the future is inaccurate,” he said. “It’s here today and it’s only going to continue to grow and become more of a norm.”
For more information about Rantizo, go to www.rantizo.com.