It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a…drone?
Smartphone apps for tasting notes, electronic sommelier machines…it was only a matter of time before that kind of flashy technology reached into the vineyards as well – and Kunde Family Estate now has the drone to prove it.
The DJI Phantom Aerial UAV Drone Quadcopter, tentatively nicknamed “Vino,” is small by traditional winery equipment standards. Looking like a cross between a helicopter and a flying letter X, the one-foot square Vino has four propellers that help control its hovering height, flight angle and speed. It utilizes GPS and flight technology similar to the military, but sports a mere $700 price tag and is available online at places like Amazon.com. It also came with a built-in mount for a GoPro digital camera, which made it a perfect choice for Marcia Mickleson, Marketing Communications Manager for Kunde Family Estate.
“I have been wanting to take aerial videos for quite some time,” said Mickleson, who spearheaded the idea of bringing a drone to Kunde. “It gives you a really neat perspective of the terrain.” Mickleson said Vino can maneuver under a canopy of grapes or very high to follow hillscapes. Mickleson said they will be creating their first video with Vino this month as part of a special feature for their custom wine club. Mickleson said she had researched private aerial photography firms who would bring in a plane, for a very large fee, so purchasing Vino seemed much more practical.
Although drones in vineyards sound unique – and Vino may be the first one in Sonoma Valley – they are not unheard-of. Large-scale grape growers in places like Australia have been perfecting “precision viticulture” with the aid of drones, using data gathered by the drones to evaluate things like soil humidity and premiere planting locations. Mickleson said that Kunde currently uses GPS technology with satellites to evaluate similar data, but they don’t yet have plans to employ Vino in this fashion. “I’m not saying we won’t,” she said, but emphasized that Kunde purchased Vino for the unique perspective it can provide.
To see a video of Vino in action, visit Kunde Family Estate on Facebook or visit its website at www.kunde.com.
Sarah Phelps is an editor and reporter. She was raised in Kenwood and has a BA from Loyola Marymount University.