Case study:

Drones — a Soybean Grower’s Best Friend

Aug 11, 2015 · 8 min read


Depending on which side of the omnivorous line you stand, soy evokes a specific type of feeling inside of you.

And soybean growers, like all in the ag industry, face a unique set of challenges when trying to make their living.

NIR orthomosaic layer, Norm’s white truck in center-right quarter of image

The story

How much soy would a soy grower grow if a soy grower could grow soy?

This is the question most often asked by the grower before the start of the next growing season. The question, however, affects every single type of grower out there.

  1. What should I do to manage weeds?
  2. When exactly should I plant — earlier in the season or later?
4 key areas in this map

The flight

Using an AgEagle, powered by DroneDeploy, Norm mapped this 210 acre field comprised of soybeans, corn, hay, and wooded areas, in one flight of 37 minutes.

The ‘L’ is the landing zone, with the takeoff point being just adjacent to it
Flight plan showing Air speed vs. Ground speed vs. Altitude and actual flight path (identifying features purposely blurred)

Assorted vanity metrics for data lovers:

Flight efficiency, Battery performance, GPS performance, Altitude, and Network performance graphs — auto-generated by DroneDeploy

Total flight time, 37 minutes

Total image processing time, 290 minutes

Analyzing the data

This unintentional double foliar application resulted in a much healthier series of soybean plants when compared to the adjacent rows.

Setting our sights north

When we look north of the barn we are greeted with a pesky nuisance: weeds.

Grower: 1, Weeds: 0.

Part 2, Soybean Redux

A lot changed in just 3 weeks

Planting was well-underway and there were some key insights revealed to the grower after another drone flight.

Animated GIF, 3 week timeframe

More data analysis

After the 3 week wait, Norm flew his AgEagle once more for his client. He duplicated the exact same flight by using his saved flight plan in the DroneDeploy app.

Norm and the grower discovered that was false.

The same soybean field from part 1 but flown 3 weeks after the 1st mission — left side is annotated for clarity, right side is the raw NDVI image

The grower could never have known this without the drone flight and the soybeans were a lot healthier than initially predicted.

Repeating the above, a common thought among soybean growers is that planting a few days — or even a week later — into the growing season doesn't make much of a difference. But this confirms that the planting time has indeed made a sizeable difference.

A young soybean sproutling

Norm and the grower never would’ve been able to prove this without seeing the NDVI map.


At this time , we won't know the exact figures saved until the grower puts his combine on the field and harvests.

All of these incremental improvements lead to more flowers, which lead to more pods, which lead to more soybeans, which culminates into more profit for the grower and, of course, a job well-done by Norm.

For perspective’s sake, let’s get some numbers.

Let’s assume the grower increases yield by just 8% on this 55 acre section of soybeans and take today’s daily rate per bushel of soybeans at $10.69 for reference.


The takeaway

Norm and the grower have successfully verified that the weed prevention program and staggered plant-time tests they had been running are effective. They were also quite surprised to learn that the accidental foliar fertilizer application improved overall plant health greatly in relation to the surrounding plants.

This insight would’ve never been realized without a drone.

The grower will be able to quantify and track the improvements he’s made to his field for this season and many seasons into the future.

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DroneDeploy's Blog

DroneDeploy is the leading cloud software platform for…

DroneDeploy's Blog

DroneDeploy is the leading cloud software platform for commercial drones. Learn more at


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DroneDeploy is the leading cloud software platform for commercial drones.

DroneDeploy's Blog

DroneDeploy is the leading cloud software platform for commercial drones. Learn more at