Ready for Flight
Bluebird Ag Provides Unique Drone Crop Dusting Services For Northwest Indiana
Four years ago, Eric Howard, owner of Bluebird Ag, was touring with musical stars like Janet Jackson, Lady Gaga and Justin Timberlake for most days out of the year. After being in charge of logistics for 13 years, Howard decided that he had had enough of the fast-paced, Rock ’n’ Roll lifestyle. He and his wife, Natalie, were looking to settle down and start a family.
Reflecting on their backgrounds, the couple was able to come up with a way to combine their respective passions and knowledge into a company — Bluebird Ag was created.
Howard grew up with a love for aviation. From a very young age, he developed an affinity for planes and for flying. Natalie grew up on a farm, and she had an appreciation for agriculture that Eric had never experienced for himself. After trying to figure out ways for Eric to come home and stop touring while continuing to make money, they decided to open a business spraying crops three years ago.
“I started flying when I was 13 years old,” Howard says. “My wife grew up on a farm, so we combined my love of airplanes and aviation and her farming background.”
The idea was developed four years ago, Howard says, but they were not able to start right away. So, they started by irrigating crops, spraying them with water from planes. Slowly, spraying crops with chemicals crept into their capabilities, and now, they have a form of innovation that is unrivaled in the United States.
“We are the first crop-dusting operation to be approved for use of drones for aerial application in the United States of America,” Howard says.
Using drones for crop dusting is typically unheard of, but the method proves to be much more effective. Since the drones are smaller, they are able to get into smaller areas or areas that are harder to reach. They offer precision.
Besides the mere idea of using drones, the situation at Bluebird Ag proves to be unique in other ways. All of their drone pilots are also certified airplane pilots, all maintaining their aerial application license from the Office of Indiana State Chemist. Bluebird Ag has also insured all of its drones with the same insurance used for their airplanes.
To get the idea started, the Howards began talks with a drone attorney. The attorney specializes in waivers from the Federal Aviation Administration. He had worked previously on getting the waivers in order for the drone light show that took place during Lady Gaga’s halftime performance at Super Bowl LI in 2015.
Using the drones allows for a much more versatile and accurate spraying of crops.
“The drones are extremely effective on spraying weeds that are only in small spots in a large field,” Howard says. “Also, in right-of-ways or very hard to access locations. It’s very precise and doesn’t run over and damage the vegetation. It also works very well on precision-mosquito spraying, for your residence or for a special event.”
The care that is shown for the environment is something else that makes Bluebird Ag special. They utilize the drones to use far fewer chemicals and avoid spraying surrounding vegetation, which helps keep the surrounding environment chemical-free. Having a smaller impact on the surrounding environment ties into Howard’s favorite part of the business.
“It’s the technology and getting to try new things, getting to help the environment by using fewer chemicals and helping customers with issues that have been harder to tackle prior to this,” he says.
Howard’s decision four years ago to stop touring and instead spend more time at home has proven to be exactly what he’d hoped for. He and Natalie welcomed their first child into the world in late April.
Bluebird Ag is open seven days a week, weather permitting, and they serve Northwest Indiana. If you have questions or if you would like to contact them to start spraying for you, you can give them a call at 219-863-4242 or visit them online at bluebirdagllc.com for more information. Bluebird AG is located at 7735 South US35 in Knox, Indiana. They have an additional location at 1060 E Division Road in Veedersburg, Indiana.