The AgDrone is an unmanned aircraft system for monitoring crop health. It can cover 700 acres per hour and produces high-resolution 2-D and 3-D maps. CreditAmanda Lucier for The New York Times

By AILI MCCONNONMAY

Over the last few years, drones have gone from being a contentious military tool for airstrikes to a far more mundane magnet for aerial hobbyists.

But as drones move into the mainstream, entrepreneurs are finding ways to harness the technology as the core of their business ideas.

Ryan Jenson showed its business potential in a demonstration for his new venture, HoneyComb. His idea was to use drones to scout fields for irrigation and pest problems. If not caught early, such problems can cost farmers thousands of dollars an acre.

Nevertheless, farmers were left scratching their heads. Mr. Jenson said they asked him: “Why do we need those? And if we do, how can we afford them?”

He and his two co-founders at HoneyComb built a rough prototype. On a sunny day in August 2013, they gathered 50 growers at Gold Dust Farms, a 9,000-acre farm in southern Oregon that specializes in potatoes.

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