top of page

Embracing Innovation in Aerial Application: The Power of Test Plots

Updated: Jun 21

Embracing Innovation in Aerial Application: The Power of Test Plots

Most pilots must navigate a variety of challenging terrains and handle a broad spectrum of agricultural demands. Our work spans from applying treatments to robust crops like corn to managing more sensitive vegetation. Utilizing advanced DJI T-40 agriculture drones, we strive to refine and perfect agricultural practices across this diverse landscape. 

The Role of Test Plots 

Test plots are essential to our operation. They are small, manageable sections of a farm where I experiment with new products and techniques with minimal risk. This approach allows us to gather data, refine our processes, and ensure that we do so with the most effective methods possible when we scale up. 

Real-World Applications 

Our use of test plots has been diverse and informative. For instance, we've conducted tests on spraying Christmas trees, applying buck barrier products in Christmas tree farms, and using just water over vineyards to fine-tune flight paths and droplet sizes for optimal coverage. We also trial different types of products on varying terrains, adapting our settings and techniques based on the terrain and whether we're applying liquid sprays or granular materials. These trials are crucial for developing best practices that ensure both efficacy and efficiency in our applications. 

Advantages of Test Plots 

The benefits of using test plots are extensive and crucial for advancing agricultural practices: - Precision: Small-scale testing allows for more controlled application, reducing waste and increasing the efficacy of treatments.

Safety: It limits exposure to new treatments, safeguarding the health of the farm ecosystem. Cost-effectiveness: It minimizes financial risk by preventing large-scale application failures. 

  • Adaptability: Enables quick adjustment to variables and conditions, leading to faster innovation cycles.

  • Scalability: Provides a blueprint for successful full-scale application, ensuring that more extensive operations are conducted with proven methods. 

  • Customer Confidence: Builds trust with clients as they see the careful steps taken to ensure the effectiveness and safety of our techniques. 

Establishing Test Plots and Adhering to Label Requirements 

Creating compelling test plots involves careful planning and execution. To get started, select a representative area of the farm that matches the conditions of larger fields in terms of soil, slope, and crop type. Test plots ensure that the insights gained are applicable on a larger scale. The size and shape of the test plot should be large enough to allow for accurate measurement of the application's impact yet small enough to limit resource use. 

As usual in regular applications, it's critical to strictly follow label requirements for all products used in test plots. This includes adhering to the specified application rates, timings, and safety precautions. Compliance ensures the legality of your testing processes and guarantees that your results are based on approved usage, making your findings more valuable and reliable. Following these guidelines helps maintain the integrity of the test results and protects the environment, the crop, and the applicator. 

Key Steps for Test Plot Success: 

  1. Choose the Right Location: The plot should represent larger farming areas.

  2. Follow Label Instructions: Adhere strictly to all label guidelines to ensure safety and compliance.

  3. Document Everything: Keep detailed records of all test conditions and results for analysis and future reference. 

  4. Analyze and Adapt: Use the insights to optimize broader application strategies. 


Utilizing test plots is critical for adopting and refining new agricultural technology. We can advance confidently as a community by conducting thorough tests and continuously learning from each other. This commitment to innovation and detailed testing drives our field forward, ensuring that technological advancements provide real and sustainable benefits. 

About the Author

Brandon Beal of Elevation Aerial Application
Brandon Beal

Brandon Beal's lifetime of aviation experience, including work with helicopters and crop spraying teams, led him to co-found Elevation Aerial Application and fueled his passion for revolutionizing agriculture drone use. Brandon deeply understands the challenges farming professionals face and is dedicated to providing tailored solutions that optimize yields, maximize efficiency, and tackle the most demanding terrains.

Brandon believes in the power of drones to streamline operations, reduce costs, and empower farmers to thrive. As a board member of U.PASS: Unmanned Pilots Association for Safety Standards, he actively advocates for sensible regulations that support farmers' interests. His advocacy has earned him the attention of policymakers like Senator Bill Stanley, ensuring that Virginia farmers' voices are heard.

Brandon's commitment to empowering farmers extends well beyond mere advocacy. His remarkable track record boasts tangible, real-world successes that have directly benefited Virginia businesses:

  • Pioneered precise weed targeting in Christmas tree fields using DJI T40 drones, overcoming previously insurmountable challenges

  • Reduced expensive pesticide usage by a significant 13%, promoting sustainability and raising profitability

  • Streamlined FAA Part 137 compliance for drone pilots by co-creating the innovative Crop Flight Drone Logbook, saving valuable time and labor

  • Collaborated with the Department of Forestry for groundbreaking field tests with white pines and cutting-edge forest management research impacting the lumber industry

Brandon embodies the spirit of American agriculture, balancing innovation with respect for tradition. Through his work at Elevation Aerial Application, he harnesses state-of-the-art drone technology for seeding, mapping, fertilization, and precision spraying, equipping farmers with data-driven tools to minimize waste and foster sustainable growth. Brandon sees the future of Virginia agriculture as brighter than ever.

46 views0 comments


bottom of page