Howard W Buffet on How Innovative Technology Makes Farming More Resilient
Welcome to the drone age. Drones are the key to future warfare, security experts say. Drones will soon deliver your Amazon (AMZN) packages, if CEO Jeff Bezos has his way. And the latest versions of the unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, are so user-friendly than an ordinary hobbyist can now buy one for $1,000 or so online and use it to film special moments, from adventure vacations to sporting events.
"It's the easiest thing," says Howard W. Buffett, who, granted, is no ordinary hobbyist. The 30-year-old grandson of Warren Buffett is president of Buffett Farms Nebraska. With his dad Howard G. Buffett, who is Warren's elder son, Howard W. grows corn and soybeans on 400 acres that sit 50 miles north of Omaha. His billionaire grandfather famously bought the tract for a song -- $280,000, to be exact -- in 1986, and wrote about lessons from his stellar real-estate investment in this year's letter to Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA) shareholders.
The young Buffett was perusing a tech blog in April when he read about the DJI Phanton 2 Vision+ RTF Quadcopter, a four-rotor flying camera that he figured could help him "tell a story of a mid-sized farmer practicing conservation-based agriculture."
He bought the Phantom 2 Vision+ for $1,299 on a site called Dave's Discount Motors. Compact and light enough to fit in his backpack, the drone required just two test flights before Buffett, four days after getting it in the mail, set it aloft above his acreage. By himself, with no crew or assistant, he maneuvered the UAV by remote control and shot 80 minutes of video. "It doesn't record audio, so I did the narration afterwards and laid it on post-production," Buffett explains.
The final product, a dazzling three-minute video, is due to air on Memorial Day on a popular show called Ag Day on cable network RFD-TV.
The Buffett scion's first foray into aerial videography might lead to a new career. "I showed the video at our family brunch. Grandpa seemed impressed," he says. In early May, during Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting weekend, his dad had him show the film to a few of the company's board members. "We talked about flying the quadcopter above next year's annual meeting," says young Howard, "though it's noisy and sounds like a small leaf blower. Maybe next year, they'll make one that's quieter."