Empire Unmanned Ready To Fly First Ag UAV Missions

UAVs, Drones, Empire Unmanned, Aerial Imagery, SenseFly eBee Ag,
Empire Unmanned setting up for a flight. (L-R) Jeff Lonnecker, Logan Blair, Ken McCormick, Brandon Moore, Joe Swart, and Brad Ward. Photo Credit: Robert Blair/Empire Unmanned.

After being granted their first Certificate of Authorization (COA) from FAA, Empire Unmanned (Hayden, ID) has completed mandatory training on the SenseFly eBee Ag last week on Blair Farms. Nathan Stein, ag solutions manager, SenseFly, conducted the training.

Empire Unmanned president and chief pilot Brad Ward, along with pilots Ken McCormick and Joe Swart, received the hands on training for the software and hardware. “I am excited about this venture finally becoming a reality. With training complete we can now offer our services to customers immediately,” said Ward.

The first COA granted to Empire Unmanned happened March 4. The timing of the COA and delays of the eBee passing through customs pushed the training to March 26. Last week eight more COAs were approved, bringing Empire’s total to nine that encompass operations throughout multiple counties in eastern Washington and southeast Idaho. On March 26, the FAA authorized Empire Unmanned to fly in uncontrolled airspace throughout the U.S.

With the completion of the training, Empire Unmanned is ready to offer services to customers in agriculture and other industries. Contact Empire Unmanned today to schedule your imaging needs.

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9 comments on “Empire Unmanned Ready To Fly First Ag UAV Missions

  1. Drones will not replace go farm management practices. It is not the golden parachute that people are trying to make it out to be in Agriculture.

    1. Rodger, that’s what people said about first motor vehicles never going to replace the horse, those new fangled cassette tape thingies never going to replace records, CDs were never going to replace cassette tapes and email would never replace fax machines. Perhaps more accurately, I’m not sure people are actually claiming drones will replace good farm management practices. Drones are only a support tool, along with many other, all of which help farm management to improve. Look how far we have come with variable rate planting and fertiliser, precision mapping, GPS guidance and auto steering. Drones will add their dimension and value, and farm management practices will improve to varying degrees as a result.

  2. UAVs will not replace farm management practices like Roger says, but they will be a very valuable tool in making decisions. The goal of UAVs in agriculture is not to replace the farmer or the agronomist or any farm practices, but to make them more efficient and effective in their decision-making. We will still have to put boots on the ground and pay attention to our crops.

        1. Walk the DAMN field. Some of still don’t get it. Preparation ahead and at planting time solves 95% of your problems. But as I stated if you can see the damage from the sir your too late. fungicides are protectants not treatment., Unless it is a very large area and early in the season your not going to replant. You do more damage than good.

  3. Rodger, the fungi kingdom deserve more credit than you are giving them. These support tools will only replace those producers unwilling to accept change being the only constant. Theres a lot more to it all than you can see. When you can and undoubtedly will eventually see for yourself what I am saying is true, does that mean its too late? No. Its just the beginning. Farming requires perseverance and forward thinking, you should try it sometime

    1. 40 years of farming and Commercial Pesticide Applicator and Certified Crop Adviser have given me a lot more experience then most of you will ever have. Secondly, I was feeding my 85 cows grain by a computerized Farmtronics system back in 1983 with a production of 877,000 pounds of milk per year. My first introduction to computers was in 1972 Introduction to Data Processing at District One Technical College.

      • NRCS Certified – Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP) Planner – 9/08 to Present
      • Certified Crop Advisor – CCA 35743 – 8/2007 to 2011
      • Certified Commercial Pesticide Applicator and Sales – 5/2000 to Present
      • Updated Conservation Plans – Wabasha, Mn. SWCD 1/01 – 6/01
      • Created 590 comprehensive nutrient management plans and approved them – 2001 to Present
      • Trained and use SNAP-PLUS Nutrient Management Software
      • Ability to work with soils, soil fertility and fertilizers
      • Knowledge of weed identification, row crop management, crop chemicals and application equipment
      • Ability to generate digital maps from paper maps, scanned Ortho images and surveys.
      • Development and management of databases and spreadsheets
      • Knowledge of raster images and building base maps
      • Working knowledge and development of a complete GIS
      • Acquired knowledge of MS-DOS, Windows, Windows 7 Professional, and Linux operating systems
      • Trained in Microsoft Word, Access, Excel, Visual Basic, Visual Basic.Net and Power Point
      • Training in computer hardware repair, installation, hardware configuration to operating systems and networking
      • Trained in AutoCad Land Development, Survey, Civil Design, AutoCad Map, Arcview, Land Records and Surveying
      • DNR/Excel Energy Project – Chippewa River – Eau Claire to the Mississippi River
      • Adams County Tri-Lake Project – Upper and Lower Camelot Lakes and Arrow Head Lake
      • Trained others in GIS/GPS skills
      • Trained in Technical Reporting


      Geographic Information Systems Technology
      Associate Degree – 8/1998 – 5/2000
      Graduated May 2000, GPA 3.8
      Student Advisor to GIS Department Advisory Committee 6/99 – 5/00


      University of Wisconsin – River Falls, River Falls, Wisconsin
      Semester of Extended Degree Agronomy/ Animal Science, 9/94 – 5/95

      University of Wisconsin – Extension, Madison, Wisconsin
      Intermediate College Algebra and College Algebra, 9/94 – 5/95

      University of Wisconsin – Fond du Lac, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin
      Two years General Courses, 9/92 – 7/94

      Chippewa Valley Technical College – Eau Claire, Wisconsin
      Farm Management and Production, Graduated 5/88

      Chippewa Valley Technical College – Eau Claire, Wisconsin
      Agri-Business Associate Degree, Graduated 5/73

      Chippewa Valley Technical College – Eau Claire, Wisconsin
      Diesel Mechanic Diploma, Graduated 5/71

      Elk Mound High School – Elk Mound, Wisconsin, Graduated 5/70

      Certified Commercial Pesticide Applicator
      Crossroads Ag. Spray farm crops with herbicides for weed control and insecticides for insect control.
      Elk Mound, Wis. 5/2011 – 7/2011

      Certified Crop Advisor
      Elk Mound, Wis. 8/2007 – 2011
      Self-Employed Crop Advisor – Nutrient Management plans, Weed control and fertilizer recommendations, Crop Scouting

      Wabasha County Feedlot Officer – 7020 Feedlot Rule Enforcement with MPCA
      Wabasha County Environmental Services, Wabasha, Minnesota 6/01 – 4/03
      Working with Ag producers to control feedlot runoff problems under the Minnesota 7020 Feedlot Rules.
      Wrote and Approved 590 Nutrient Management Plans and plans submitted by other CCAs or NMP planners

    2. I grew up on a 280 acre irrigated dairy farm. I was born in 1952 and started driving tractor in the fall of 1957, 1949 JD B Model. I worked at the home farm until I was 19 yrs old. I then worked at Chippewa Valley Bean Co. for three years driving tractor from 6 am to 9:30 pm seven days a week on this 1800 irrigated dairy and crop farm. crops were Alfalfa, corn, navy beans and Dark Red Kidney beans and cucmbers. 25% of the nations Dark Red Kidney Beans go through this plant.. Look it up on the Web. It is now over 4000 acres irrigated. In 1976 I joined my father in partnership on the home farm 280 irrigated acres and did this until 1996.

      “Farming requires perseverance and forward thinking, you should try it sometime” I fed my cows by computer back in 1983. I worked the 16 hour days seven days a week and on call the other 8 hours.. I got up at 5am to milk cows and feed them. I am trained in artificial breeding since 1973. I worked the fields until 11:30 pm and then got back up at 2:30 am to change the traveling irrigation gun (Water Winch) and back up at 5 am to milk cows.
      Maybe you should get out of bed before the sun comes up in the morning and not go to bed until midnight seven days a week all summer and then say I don’t have perseverance and forward thinking. Been there and done that. I have 40 years of experience more than most of you will ever have.

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