Purdue Engineering Students Embark on Ag Drone Start-Up in Indiana

Through their start-up, Aerial Agriculture LLC, engineering students from Purdue University are developing and manufacturing agricultural drones that can capture multispectral images of entire crop fields.

According to Purdue, Lafayette, Ind.-based Aerial Agriculture uses specialized cameras to convert images into vegetation indices that represent crop health and allow agronomists to determine the amount of nitrogen and fertilizer that needs to be applied in specific locations throughout the field.

“Our technology can pinpoint crop areas that need more attention – which allows farmers to then apply more inputs and address potential crop issues immediately, as opposed to after the fact,” says Austin Deardorff, Aerial Agriculture co-founder and a student in Purdue’s College of Engineering. “We expect our clients to get a full return on their investment, if not make money from using our service.”

Other members of the start-up include Justin Kinney, Tyler Landers, Justin Sutcliff, Taylor Wetli, Angelo DeFlora, Suzanne Bagnoli and Paul Pratt (all undergraduate students in the College of Engineering).

“Justin brought up the topic of drones being used in agriculture and how expensive this process can be,” Deardorff explains. “Tyler mentioned that he has been building drones since eighth grade and can make them much cheaper, get them to fly longer and can equip them to take better images. From there, we began product development, and here we are now.”

The team recently upgraded their cameras, which can now collect four different spectral bands, says Purdue.

Aerial Agriculture has received funding through various sources at the Purdue Foundry, an entrepreneurship and commercialization accelerator located in the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship in Purdue’s Discovery Park. The team took first place and $5,000 at Purdue’s Boiler Mini-Accelerator Competition earlier this year.

In addition, the company recently received $20,000 in the latest round of funding from Elevate Purdue Foundry Fund First-Tier Black Awards.

Deardorff adds, “We want to become the only agriculture drone service company in Indiana and begin expanding to multiple states with longer growing seasons.”


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