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
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
Precision AgPrecision Agriculture: Finding The Payback
September 6, 2014
Profitability in precision ag is not about any one technology, but the result of employing technology in a total system approach that is agronomically sound. Read More
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100CHS Partners With Northern Partners Coop On Fertilizer Warehouse
January 21, 2015
In addition, the two companies will form a joint venture to build and operate a grain barge loading facility that will handle corn, soybeans and wheat for export through the CHS terminal at Myrtle Grove, LA. Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Move To Colorado Complete
January 20, 2015
Wilbur-Ellis Co. announces the opening of its new Agribusiness Division location in the Denver, CO, Metro Area. The new facility will host key personnel as the company shifts the base of its Agribusiness operations from California to Colorado. Read More
CropLife 100United Suppliers, McGregor Co., Five Others To Form Aligned Ag Distributors
January 20, 2015
These companies will continue to operate as independently owned and operated businesses, however, their crop protection divisions will now be formally aligned under the umbrella of Aligned Ag Distributors. Read More
CropLife 100Bozeman Named SEEDWAY Chief Operating Officer
January 16, 2015
He succeeds Donald Wertman, who will retire at the end of August 2015 after 40 years with the GROWMARK subsidiary. Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis’ Craig Bair Honored For Safety Contributions To Ag Aviation
January 14, 2015
The William O. Marsh Safety Award recognizes significant achievements in safety, safety education or an outstanding operational safety program. Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Gearing Up For Another NASCAR Season
January 13, 2015
BRANDT will return for its fifth year as a primary sponsor of the No. 51 driven by Justin Allgaier in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Read More
Latest News
ManagementRetail Collaboration, Communicating Agriculture’s Good …
January 23, 2015
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfliligoj discuss the recent creation of Aligned Ag Distributors, and the US Farmers and Ranchers Read More
FertilizerOSU Expert: Toledo Water Crisis A Turning Point For Ohi…
January 23, 2015
The August 2014 water crisis in Toledo, OH, impacted Ohioans’ views of Lake Erie algae problems by increasing the attribution of blame of algae growth on agriculture. Read More
FertilizerH.J. Baker Launching TIGER XP
January 22, 2015
Tiger-Sul introduces this next generation sulphur-bentonite product with a proprietary activator – ensuring farmers have a well-balanced nutrient replacement program. Read More
Crop InputsH.J. Baker Expands China Sales Force
January 21, 2015
Global Agricultural firm H.J. Baker announced that sales veteran Shi Dongshen has joined their Shanghai office in China. This newest hire follows the recent opening of their Lianyungang Sulphur Bentonite Plant. Read More
CropLife 100CHS Partners With Northern Partners Coop On Fertilizer …
January 21, 2015
In addition, the two companies will form a joint venture to build and operate a grain barge loading facility that will handle corn, soybeans and wheat for export through the CHS terminal at Myrtle Grove, LA. Read More
Matt Hopkins5 Bold Predictions For Ag Retail In 2015
January 21, 2015
This past year was filled with ups and downs for the nation’s top ag retailers, but what will 2015 have in store? Read More
SoftwareDeere Launches App Center
January 20, 2015
The John Deere App Center provides users the ability to search and find apps most useful to their business or operations. Read More
Crop InputsNew Syngenta Herbicide Approved In Soybeans, Sunflowers
January 20, 2015
Syngenta will sell BroadAxe XC herbicide in 2015 for use on soybeans, sunflowers and dry peas Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Move To Colorado Complete
January 20, 2015
Wilbur-Ellis Co. announces the opening of its new Agribusiness Division location in the Denver, CO, Metro Area. The new facility will host key personnel as the company shifts the base of its Agribusiness operations from California to Colorado. Read More
Crop InputsNovozymes Sales Figures Up For 2014
January 20, 2015
Novozymes announces its sales growth in 2014 was in line with expectations as sales grew by 7% compared with 2013. Read More
CropLife 100United Suppliers, McGregor Co., Five Others To Form Ali…
January 20, 2015
These companies will continue to operate as independently owned and operated businesses, however, their crop protection divisions will now be formally aligned under the umbrella of Aligned Ag Distributors. Read More
Eric SfiligojGMO Or DNA? LOL Or WTF?
January 19, 2015
A new survey finds the American public seems generally confused when it comes to any three-letter descriptor for their food. Read More
FertilizerAGROTAIN Wins No-Till Product Of The Year Again
January 19, 2015
This marks the 10th straight year AGROTAIN nitrogen stabilizer has been named the top product in this category; no other product has matched this honor Read More
FertilizerTFI President To Give Update On Nutrient Management Eff…
January 19, 2015
The Fertilizer Institute President Chris Jahn will give the keynote address at the 2015 Ohio AgriBusiness Association Industry Conference February 4. Read More
Seed/BiotechUnderstanding The Role Of Seed Enhancers In Seed Treame…
January 17, 2015
Seed enhancers such as polymer play a key part in helping to improve germination, seed growth or accuracy of planting. Read More
Crop InputsUSDA Signs Off On Dicamba-Tolerant Trait In Cotton, Soy…
January 16, 2015
A registration decision by EPA for BASF's Engenia herbicide is anticipated to follow the dicamba-tolerant trait deregulation milestone. Read More
CropLife 100Bozeman Named SEEDWAY Chief Operating Officer
January 16, 2015
He succeeds Donald Wertman, who will retire at the end of August 2015 after 40 years with the GROWMARK subsidiary. Read More
Crop InputsDan Clinker Joins Monty’s Sales Team
January 16, 2015
Monty's Plant Food Co. has hired Dan Clinker as a Product Consultant and Sales Support Representative for the Central Ohio region. Read More