A new business venture is taking flight in the hands of students in Buena Vista University’s (BVU) agriculture program. Buena Vista Reconnaissance (BVR) Drone Services is a student-run business launched two years ago to provide crop scouting services and aerial im­agery for area farmers, ag cooperatives and seed companies. 

“We looked at it as an educational opportunity for students,” says Kevin Price, BVU instructor of management and agricultural business. “We saw it as a need that’s underserved. It’s a nice add-on skill for students to develop.”

Tyler Willey and Cody Berens spent last summer as interns for BVR Drone Services under Price’s guidance. They helped re­fine the group’s business plan and flew unmanned quad-copter and fixed wing drones to capture aerial imagery for clients. 

“It’s really interest­ing. It was a huge op­portunity, especial­ly to get our drone lic­ense,” said Wil­ley, a junior ag business major from Grimes. 

BVR Drone Services gives BVU students the opportunity to run a fully functional business while applying the agronomy and ag business concepts and theories they’re learning in the classroom, says Rich Crow, director of BVU’s Institute for Agriculture, Food and Resource Management.

Berens, a senior, said the business and technical skills he gained will be useful when he returns to his family farm near Dunlap after graduating this spring with an ag business degree. 

“I leaned a lot about the business side of things. We had to figure out what the business should look like,” he says. 

He tested the drone on his family’s farm last summer, and sees vast potential for using the technology to improve crop yields by gathering information on weed and insect pressure, stand counts and crop health.

“Technology in agriculture in­terests me — everything from auto-steer to GPS,” he says. “And if I ever need off-farm income, there are so many opportunities with the drone.”

Berens and Willey are hopeful that BVR Drone Services will continue to grow as future classes of Buena Vista students take the reins. 

“We built a model for them. The new students will have a path to follow,” says Willey, who is considering career options that incorporate his drone experience.  

Berens adds, “I’m really excited to see what it can do. When I come back, I hope it’s something that’s still growing.”