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Based on research and interviews this spring by No-Till Farmer, it looks as though the cost for UAVS ranges from very basic models found on the Internet for $500, to some models that cost more than $100,000.
The cost depends on the materials, software, camera technology and other factors.
Volt Aerial Robotics founder Rory Paul says the “ballpark” cost for his Octane rotary-copter model is around $10,000, but he expects prices to come down steeply once the civilian UAV market becomes established.
The Swinglet eBee fixed-wing UAV — which can be flown with a laptop computer and can cover 100 to 150 acres at a time — costs about $12,000. But $11,000 of the total is from the software used to process the images.
Cameron Waite, director of corporate accounts for Aeryon Labs, says the company’s Scout rotary copter costs $60,000 “for everything you need to fly”, including the photo-stitching software.
Drew Janes of Aerial Precision Ag says his UAV kit is priced at $3,800, making it affordable and easy for farmers to master. A “Go Pro 3” kit is available that allows the UAV to transmit high-definition video, and more technology improvements are planned this year.
In a study released this year, the Association For Unmanned Vehicle Systems International says the precision agriculture industry is expected to be the largest market for UAVs. They estimate 100,000 UAVs would be sold each year once UAVs are integrated into U.S. national airspace system and the market is established.