How one farmer learned to love drones

Landon Smith

Up&Up: Landon Smith

Senior UAS Pilot in Command, PrecisionHawk

As Senior UAS Pilot in Command at PrecisionHawk, Landon makes sure clients get the right training and service for their drone programs. Those clients might be surprised to learn that his first customer was his grandfather, and the first data he collected was on the family farm. In his ASCEND presentation Landon will share what he has learned about putting UAS technology to work on the farm. Here, he talks about his first attempts at piloting a drone, and the role drones can play in the future of agriculture.

Q: You grew up on a farm in Indiana and then enrolled in Purdue University to study organizational leadership. When did drones enter the picture, and how?

A: After getting my degree I came home to the farm, and I was looking for a project I could take on as my own responsibility. When I first heard about drones I was not convinced. I had attended a local farmers meeting where a presentation on drones was given, and I had a lot of questions and a few concerns because of the promises that were made by that particular individual. He seemed to be over-selling the technology, and I was dubious. Nonetheless, that summer I bought a drone, and after learning what it could do I realized the potential.

I began Midwest-UAV shortly thereafter. It’s a family business; my wife and I shoot weddings and events together. We focus on videography and on scouting for farmers, but also provide service to real estate agencies and some construction management firms.

Q: Tell us about your first attempt to fly a drone. How did it go?

A: My first attempt was a dud, I did not know what I was doing and actually hit my hand with a (luckily) slow-spinning propeller. Ten minutes on YouTube later, I had it figured out and was scouting a field that had just received a couple of inches of rain. I brought the footage back to my grandpa and we watched it together.

From that short flight, I had more questions for my grandpa about that field than I had ever asked in all the years I grew up next to it. Needless to say, after that experience I was convinced drones deserved a place on the farm, every farm.

Q: What’s your best networking tip for people trying to establish themselves in this business?

A: “In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.” -- Ralph Waldo Emerson.

I love this industry because everyone is excited to be in it, and they’re applying this technology in many creative and beneficial ways that will shape our future. Do not be afraid to ask questions, but make sure that you listen when you do.

Q: In five words or less: How would you describe the future of the drone industry?

A: Streamlined workflows, increased efficiency and capabilities.

Q: Tell us why we would want to attend your ASCEND session. What will we learn?

A: In 1950 the average farmer fed 27 people. Today he/she feeds almost 150 people, and by 2050 that number will increase another 60%, without the addition of land or resources. Please attend to help farmers accomplish this goal, because we will not do it by simply adding more nitrogen or water.

Click here to learn about Landon’s ASCEND presentation.

On the UP&UP with ASCEND is a series of interviews with the industry leaders you’ll meet at ASCEND Conference & Expo. Interviews are conducted by Drone360 magazine.

Featured image: Midwest-UAV

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