AutoCopter allows variable-rate Rx in the field

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click image to zoom Growers and crop consultants can make decisions in the field using real-time information from the AutoCopter G15 Ag Solution. The unmanned helicopter now provides the ability to collect multi-spectral data using patent-pending software and creates variable rate prescriptions within minutes from landing in the field.

Earlier AutoCopter Corporation released the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) precision agriculture solution to collect multi-spectral data and convert it to GeoTiff images. In addition to these features was the ability to see the field live with video streamed to the ground control station, creating geo-referenced DLSR images and HD video at the same time.

“The amount of data is growing, but the amount to real-time data for decision making is often delayed. AutoCopter focused on collecting data and then providing it in the field—where our decisions are made and executed,” reported a Curtis, Neb., crop consultant.

“The AutoCopter has a precision manufactured aluminum airframe with the capacity to carry multiple cameras as it flies for two full hours without the need to refuel. It can find an area of concern, stop—go back—hover—or go down for a better look and then resume its automated flight path,” explained Donald Effren, president of AutoCopter Corporation.

The auto pilot software has auto take-off and auto land features, which allows learning to fly the copter with less than one day of training. The flight of the AutoCopter is tracked on the ground control station as the live video link gives real time visuals. The mission can then be saved and flown again, exactly—same altitude, same route, same speed—for real comparative value.

“With the AutoCopter additions, there is no more waiting for a vendor to deliver satellite images from an airplane. No more cancellations for rain or distortion from the clouds. Better resolution, delivered immediately and with all of the tools to make the decisions in the field is an important leap forward for growers and crops consultants,” Effren said.

“Capturing data at 100 feet gives incredible resolution of the HD video, DSLR images and the multi-spectral images. In a field, you can see the areas of concern and be able to walk out to the area because the images are geo-referenced,” he also noted.  

Efffren is quick to note that AutoCopter has been in the precision agriculture market for more than two years and is one of the pioneers of UAV imagery for agriculture. Recent smaller battery operated UAVs with a camera have entered the market.

“Their very limited flight time and weight constraints mean flying one camera at a time, often a miniaturized one. Every month we are asked to take one of these units in trade. Buyers found they were not built for professional use as the work product was not up to their needs and did not perform well,” Effren said.

Another crop consultant at Northfield, Minn., said, “The ability to produce real-time NDVI maps in the field and from those maps create real-time variable rate prescriptions within minutes of landing is the major breakthrough.”

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October, 31, 2013 at 01:32 PM

How are they able to get around the fact that flying a UAV or even a remote controlled vehicle for commercial purposes is illegal? According to Federal Aviation Regulations there is currently only method a commercial entity can use to get permission to fly and that is to apply for and receive a Special Airworthiness Certificate in the experimental category for the entire system. I believe even then flight was only allowed for research and crew training in designated areas. My guess is that they are just operating "under the radar" since the FAA likely does not have the man power to enforce the existing regulations. The FAA has been given the mandate to integrate UAV's into the the National Airspace System (NAS) by the year 2020 but they are still along way from having laws that make this legal. If something has changed or there is some loop hole I would to hear about it.

October, 31, 2013 at 02:11 PM

There are a couple loopholes related to flight of toys or otherwise as long as the aerial unit is always within sight and a certain height. Remote-controlled airplanes have been sold and flown for decades. Most farmers are likely flying UAVs under a hobbyist's license. Others who are allowed to use them by special permit are universities.

Dwight Scott    
South Carolina  |  November, 01, 2013 at 09:04 AM

There was an article in Ag Professional Aug 12, 2013 Highlights are below. The entire article is included for your reference • Rory Paul, chief executive of Volt Aerial Robotics, a St. Louis-based company, said the efficiency gains from using UAVs to scout and map farmland have prompted some farmers to use lower-priced drones in spite of FAA regulations. • "The FAA doesn't have inspectors running around the heartland looking for people with UAVs," Paul said. • The FAA says it will try to stop unauthorized commercial activity if it becomes known but adds that it will resort to civil penalties only in extreme cases. • "We really would only pursue a civil penalty if someone was operating an unmanned aircraft in a reckless manner," said FAA spokesman Les Dorr. The reality is, flying on a farm is not a focus of FAA. Nor should it be!

Alliance  |  November, 04, 2013 at 04:29 PM

This is exciting technology...K-State and other universities have/are working with it extensively. One suggestion for good relations--if you use a UAV, it would be good to coordinate with local aerial applicators if you are using a UAV in an area where, and at a time when, aerial applications are taking place. A collision could be very disastrous. Aerial applicators are already having to deal with the MET tower issue. Thanks for consideration!

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