AgEagle Soaring Toward UAS Success

AgEagle UAVs combine a flying wing airframe made out of hardened fiberglass/carbon fiber with Kevlar-edged wings.
AgEagle UAVs combine a flying wing airframe made out of hardened fiberglass/carbon fiber with Kevlar-edged wings.

An almost too-perfect storm of circumstance, some might even call it fate, catapulted AgEagle founder Bret Chilcott into the now-vast world of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV).

Growing up on a South Central, KS-area farm, the aviation-crazed Chilcott fondly recalls “spending nearly every single penny I earned on model airplanes and flying lessons.” Getting his wings locally flying single engine Cessna’s and Gliders, at the same time Chilcott launched a career in advanced composite materials for a Neodesha-based boat manufacturer. It was there that he gained much of the expertise, combined with his aviation and ag backgrounds, that would help him launch the company that today is “totally focused on the ag UAV industry.”

“In its infancy when computers were not mainstream yet, the computer industry was pretty much just a bunch of guys with a hobby messing around in their garages, building systems from components,” says Chilcott. “Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, they turned a hobby into an industry, and that’s very similar to our approach as a UAV manufacturer. We’re trying to make these systems as simple as possible for both the grower and the agronomist.”

UAVs were not always the singular focus at the company that preceded AgEagle, however. During the 2008 Financial Crisis, the company had been focused on supplying advanced composites for military and trucking applications when, as luck would have it, nearby Kansas State University began a research program on UAVs in agriculture. His longtime passion and interest in aviation peaked, Chilcott contacted KSU and volunteered to produce a prototype airframe for the researchers, during which he quickly realized the promise of UAVs in agriculture and decided to narrow his outfit’s focus.

Now with a growing international presence (AgEagle boasts dealerships in Australia, Brazil, Uruguay and Chile), the eight employee outfit is making noise in domestic markets with its 2014 Ag Eagle model, a product of collaboration with KSU, as well as employees from Spirit Aerosystems and Cessna Aircraft Co., both of which keep offices in the Wichita area.

Combining a flying wing airframe made out of hardened fiberglass/carbon fiber with Kevlar-edged wings, the sturdiness of AgEagle’s product sets it apart from the crowd, according to Chilcott.

“Our airframe was designed for abuse, developed and tested in western Kansas winds – some of the strongest prevailing winds in the country,” he says. “Speaking of other products, anything that you can launch by hand is really just a toy, and I’m not so sure it can handle the 32+ MPH winds like ours can.”

Besides being a complete turnkey product that includes all camera, software (including an NDVI image reading program) and launching equipment, Chilcott says the company dispatches a representative for in-person training to all customers that request it.

Another distinguishing feature on the AgEagle is its landing versatility; Chilcott recommends operators just land the UAV directly “onto the top of the crop,” eliminating the need for an expansive landing/takeoff area and landing gear which can break or malfunction.

Going forward, once FAA opens up commercial airspace to UAVs in 2015, Chilcott sees multiple concepts expanding the market even further.

“Down the road we are looking at being able to monitor and track individual livestock, and building both smaller (for growers imaging 40-60 acre fields) and larger UAVs (to accommodate more advanced imaging equipment),” he says. “Long term, we’re looking at building systems that can seed cover crops – these will be much larger (than the current AgEagle) and gas-powered.”

Still, never one to let the moment pass, Chilcott is relishing the takeoff of his relatively young company in an ever-crowding industry.

“Orders are coming in so fast and so furious, we could probably use another building here in the next month or so.”

Topics:

Leave a Reply

Equipment Stories

Agrible Pocket Spray Smart App
EquipmentNew Agrible Pocket Spray Smart App Alleviates Spraying Concerns
March 10, 2017
There’s a new app to help farmers decide when to spray their fields. Pocket Spray Smart is a free iOS Read More
BBI MagnaSpread Salford BBI
Equipment14 Fertilizer Spreaders For 2017
March 9, 2017
Application equipment manufacturers stressed flexibility and accuracy with this year’s crop of fertilizer spreaders. From AGCO’s TerraGator TG9300B and Case IH’s 810 Read More
Forbes Mixing Bowl NYC
Precision AgGrowing Demand For High Tech Agriculture Sparking Discussion
March 3, 2017
How can information technology be best harnessed to solve challenges in food and agriculture? That’s a question being asked more Read More
Junge Innovation Center
EquipmentAg Retail Plants Adapt Designs, Software
March 2, 2017
A host of factors could be cited for “the rise of the machines” in ag retail plants — and the Read More
Trending Articles
AdjuvantsA New Weed-Control Era Begins: But First, One Last Obstacle
March 4, 2017
There is trepidation, there is reluctance, and there is excitement. Ag retailers feel it all about the new dicamba and Read More
LIFT Academy video screenshot
Crop InputsLIFT Agriculture Academy: A Q&A With West Central Distribution’s Dean Hendrickson
March 1, 2017
West Central Distribution recently launched its LIFT Agriculture Academy, a new, premiere training and professional development resource for West Central’s ag Read More
Farmer and aptop
Matt Hopkins10 Warning Signs Your Website Is Grossly Outdated
February 8, 2017
Your Website is often a visitor’s first impression of your ag retail business. A positive first impression can set the Read More
AgriSync
Matt Hopkins17 Agriculture Apps That Will Help You Farm Smarter In 2017
December 9, 2016
Ag professionals are working smarter, not harder, than ever before. Smart farming technologies have enabled them to reduce costs, maximize Read More
R4023 Sprayer, John Deere
CropLife 100Ag Retail Equipment Report: The Green Party Continues
December 7, 2016
In the annual race for sales in the ag retail equipment marketplace, the color schemes for participants are a little Read More
Mike Stern
Precision AgClimate Corp. CEO Talks Retailer Support For Digital Ag
December 1, 2016
CropLife Magazine’s sister publication, AgriBusiness Global, recently sat down with Mike Stern, CEO of The Climate Corp., following the Monsanto subsidiary’s Read More
Latest News
UncategorizedPrecision Ag, Iowa Water, and GM Corn Updates
March 24, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj look at the state of precision agriculture, the dismissal of the Des Moines Water Read More
Pam Marrone
Crop InputsMarrone Bio Innovations Enters Biostimulants Market Wit…
March 23, 2017
Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc. is expanding beyond biopesticides and crop protection and into the biostimulant market by commercially launching Haven Read More
Nutrients for Life Foundation Teacher
FertilizerNutrients For Life Foundation Celebrates 10 Years Teach…
March 23, 2017
Those in agriculture know fertilizer is a vital ingredient to grow strong, productive crops. In fact, fertilizer is responsible for Read More
ManagementThink You Know Water? Take WinField United’s R…
March 22, 2017
Water is among our most precious resources, and arguably the hardest working, with just one percent available for human use, Read More
Corn Field
LegislationTFI Hopes Court Dismissal Is ‘Final Chapter’…
March 20, 2017
The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) released the following statement from President, Chris Jahn on the March 17, 2017, federal court dismissal Read More
Wheat Growers
Industry NewsWheat Growers CEO Dale Locken To Retire
March 20, 2017
CEO Dale Locken has announced that he plans to retire from Wheat Growers. Locken has served almost 15 years as Read More
Bayer Monsanto
Eric SfiligojBayer-Monsanto: Life, LibertyLink, And The Pursuit Of R…
March 20, 2017
As the calendar officially turns to spring, life is in full renewal mode. Flowers are blooming, birds are singing, and Read More
Corn Field
Crop InputsUltra Yield Micronutrients Acquires Kronos Micronutrien…
March 16, 2017
Ultra Yield Micronutrients, Inc. ”Ultra”, an affiliate of Cameron Chemicals, Inc., is pleased to announce that it has acquired the Read More
ManagementSnowstorms, Asset Sales, and Soybeans Prices
March 16, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss the weather, precision ag, crop protection company mergers, and commodity prices in this Read More
Soybean Field
Seed/BiotechBayer Invests $8.1 million In Soybean Advancement In Th…
March 16, 2017
Growers in Illinois and across the Midwest now have the added benefit of a state-of-the-art soybean research facility, increasing accessibility Read More
CHS
CropLife 100CHS Acquires Western Co-op Transport Association
March 16, 2017
CHS Inc., North America’s leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company, has purchased Western Co-op Transport Read More
Young corn plants in soil
HerbicidesBest Management Practices To Control PPO-Resistant Weed…
March 14, 2017
Weeds resistant to the class of herbicides called protoporphyrinogen oxidase (PPO) inhibitors are spreading at a faster rate than weed Read More
Photo credit: The United Soybean Board/The Soybean Checkoff.
Eric SfiligojFungicide Resistance On The Horizon
March 13, 2017
For many years now, the agricultural market has struggled to keep ahead of an ever-growing number of herbicide-resistant weeds. According Read More
Management2017 Commodity Classic Review
March 10, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss what happened at the recent Commodity Classic in San Antonio. Read More
Farmer using AgriSync
ManagementMajor AgriSync Update Aims To Extend Ag Experts’ Power …
March 10, 2017
AgriSync announced a major update to its leading collaboration and service management tool for professional ag advisors and their farmer Read More
Agrible Pocket Spray Smart App
EquipmentNew Agrible Pocket Spray Smart App Alleviates Spraying …
March 10, 2017
There’s a new app to help farmers decide when to spray their fields. Pocket Spray Smart is a free iOS Read More
BPIA logo
Crop InputsBiological Products Trade Association Changes Name, Exp…
March 9, 2017
The Biological Products Industry Alliance (BPIA), formerly the BioPesticide Industry Alliance, is the new name of the rapidly growing U.S.-based Read More
BBI MagnaSpread Salford BBI
Equipment14 Fertilizer Spreaders For 2017
March 9, 2017
Application equipment manufacturers stressed flexibility and accuracy with this year’s crop of fertilizer spreaders. From AGCO’s TerraGator TG9300B and Case IH’s 810 Read More