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
EquipmentTop 30 IRON WORKS Cartoons Of All Time
April 29, 2015
When CropLife IRON first started publishing more than a decade ago, long-time Publisher Al Strohmaier decided to start a cartoon Read More
EquipmentMeeting Changing Liquid Storage Needs
October 10, 2014
Tank and containment choices are expanding with shifts in farming practices and the economy. Read More
Precision AgGoogle Glass: New Tool For Ag
October 8, 2014
New wearable smart technologies such as Google Glass show potential to greatly impact how we accomplish the business of feeding the world. Read More
Equipment2014 Product Of The Year Voting
September 19, 2014
The deadline to vote for the 2014 CropLife IRON Product of the Year is October 31. Please cast your vote today to help us determine the winner. Read More
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100The Andersons Acquires South Dakota Plant Nutrient Manufacturer Kay-Flo
May 20, 2015
The Andersons, Inc., ranked No. 22 on the CropLife 100, has purchased Kay Flo Industries of North Sioux City, SD. “This Read More
CropLife 100North Central Farmers Elevator, Wheat Growers Unification Approved By Board, Still Awaits Member Approval
May 13, 2015
The Boards of Directors for North Central Farmers Elevator (NCFE) and Wheat Growers (WG) have voted to approve the Unification Read More
CropLife 100AgGateway’s Barcoding Initiative Progressing Nicely
May 8, 2015
According to legend (or Wikipedia), the first step towards modern bar codes came back in 1948, when Bernard Silver, a Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Agriculture Acquires Minnesota Retailer
April 14, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings, LLC, ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100,  has successfully acquired Liebl Ag, LLC in Ada, MN.  Read More
CropLife 100CHS, Aurora Cooperative Complete Fertilizer Storage, Grain Shuttle Loading Facility
April 13, 2015
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading cooperative and ranked No. 5 on the CropLife 100, and Aurora Cooperative (ranked No. 21) Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Acquires Missouri Refined Fuels Terminal
April 2, 2015
Bloomington, IL-based GROWMARK and Magellan Pipeline Co. have entered into an agreement in which GROWMARK will acquire the refined fuels Read More
Latest News
ManagementA New Sprayer Company & UAV Research In The Spotlig…
May 21, 2015
CropLife’s Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about a Dutch sprayer manufacturer entering the U.S. with a super-sized entry and Read More
HerbicidesFirst U.S. Sale Of Enlist Duo Herbicide Made By Dow Agr…
May 21, 2015
Dow AgroSciences has recorded the first U.S. sale of Enlist Duo herbicide with Colex-D Technology. This marks the first commercial Read More
CropLife 100The Andersons Acquires South Dakota Plant Nutrient Manu…
May 20, 2015
The Andersons, Inc., ranked No. 22 on the CropLife 100, has purchased Kay Flo Industries of North Sioux City, SD. “This Read More
EquipmentNORAC Options Coming To TerraGator
May 19, 2015
Utilizing NORAC’s Standard Control technology, boom height control is now available for TerraGators with Airmax Precision 2 and Benson Booms. This Read More
Crop InputsHelena Introduces New Soil Health Product
May 19, 2015
Helena Chemical Co. is helping agricultural producers maximize yields and efficiency with the introduction of Liquid Chisel, a new product Read More
Stewardship4R Nutrient Management Planning Certification Now Avail…
May 19, 2015
The American Society of Agronomy (ASA) and the International Certified Crop Adviser (ICCA) program announce a new specialty certification in Read More
Environmental Defense Fund logo
Paul SchrimpfEnvironmental Defense Fund: Appreciating Partners
May 19, 2015
I WAS deep in the throes of preparation for the Commodity Classic meeting that took place this past February, trying Read More
WebinarsUpcoming Webinars
May 19, 2015
Register for one of our upcoming Webinars or access our archive of past Webinars to view recordings of presentations that may be of interest to you. Read More
Syngenta Sign
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Responds To Lawyer’s Victory Claim In Vi…
May 18, 2015
A plaintiff’s lawyer has issued a public statement claiming that damages have been awarded in the Agrisure Viptera corn lawsuits Read More
StewardshipCould Australian Water Trading Approach Fit In Californ…
May 18, 2015
Ten years of drought isn’t a good thing. It doesn’t help the bottom line of farmers or the health of Read More
SpreadersDutch Sprayer Manufacturer To Enter U.S. Market
May 18, 2015
Dutch self-propelled sprayer manufacturer Agrifac Machinery has announced intentions to enter the U.S. market with two models of sprayers available Read More
FertilizerTFI Weighs In On Fertilizer Rail Transport Bill
May 14, 2015
With today’s House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure as a backdrop, The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) registered its support for policies Read More
ManagementA Visit To The 2015 Environmental Respect Spirit Award …
May 14, 2015
CropLife’s Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about a recent visit to the CPS Spirit winner in St. Stephen’s Church, Read More
StewardshipBayer Entomologist Issues Statement On Annual Honeybee …
May 13, 2015
Richard (Dick) Rogers, Principal Scientist / Entomologist, Bayer Bee Care Center for Bayer CropScience LP, today issued the following statement Read More
Crop InputsKansas State Researchers Announce Resistant Kochia Brea…
May 13, 2015
Kansas State University researchers say new research helps explain why an invasive weed is developing resistance to a well-known herbicide, Read More
RR2X soybeans surround untreated check (center)
HerbicidesUSDA Study: Glyphosate Application More Prevalent In So…
May 13, 2015
Glyphosate—known by many trade names, including Roundup—has been the most widely used pesticide in the United States since 2001. It Read More
AdjuvantsHelena Chemical Introduces New Drift Control Adjuvant J…
May 13, 2015
Helena Chemical Co. introduces Justified, an innovative drift control agent designed to improve the performance and precision of spray applications Read More
CropLife 100North Central Farmers Elevator, Wheat Growers Unificati…
May 13, 2015
The Boards of Directors for North Central Farmers Elevator (NCFE) and Wheat Growers (WG) have voted to approve the Unification Read More