Pat tells us how they got started with the company some 4 years ago and where they look to be headed. He mentions how they started as a best control company with simulated hawks to keep other birds from bothering the grapes in wine country and now they are a full blown data company with inquiries coming from many different industries, most recently a cemetery. This information that Precision Hawk can provide can be shared and used by the grower, a seed dealer and other consultants.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles – call them UAVs or drones or just remote-controlled airplanes – have been around for decades, but using them for agricultural practices is just really starting to take off.
A good crowd showed up for a session on UAVs sponsored by Farm Industry magazine at the recent National Farm Machinery Show where University of Kentucky (UK) mechanical engineer Dr. Suzanne Smith was one of the presenters. The UK recently announced the formation of an Unmanned Systems Research Consortium (USRC) to advance unmanned aerial, ground and underwater systems, and to explore commercial applications for the technology in Kentucky.
“It’s faculty members from across the university,” says Smith. “From ag, ag engineering, forestry, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer science – all working together to advance technologies – and we’re working with companies.”
She and other panelists entertained lots of questions from the audience at the NFMS which indicated a great deal of interest from farmers in using more advanced UAV technology. “It’s very exciting right now,” she said. “In the end it’s really time-saving and efficiency, and that’s what everybody is really looking for.”
As we’ve talked about this week, integration was a key theme of the recent MapShots Customer Conference in Atlanta, Ga., as the company brought in customers and the other precision agriculture providers used in its AgStudio software. Lanny Faleide, President/CEO of SatShot, a satellite and aerial imagery company, said MapShots uses the sophisticated images and the agricultural know-how that SatShots adds to those pictures.
“We take an ag perspective, understand the agronomy, reasons why an image will work in the precision ag market and for crop insurance diagnostics as well, and we’re able to put that agricultural flair to it,” he said. Lanny added MapShots is an integrator of their product. “A few years ago, we took the tact of wanting to do one thing really well: distributing the data. We integrate with these farm softwares, and they do the more intense precision ag techniques, and we provide that data automatically [that has that agricultural flair].”
Lanny also talked about how SatShot provides the information in the image, such the biomass or quality of the vegetation. Then, using the MapShots AgStudio software, a producer is able to come up with a prescription and plug that into their hardware out in the field to make sure the right amount of seed, fertilizer, and/or pesticides and herbicides are applied at the right place at the right time. In the future, he said SatShot will scale up its automatic notification system when new imagery is available, as well as working with new satellite companies that will take the imagery technology to the next level
Another one of the integrating partners with MapShots’ AgStudio software that showed and explained their product at the MapShots Customer Conference in Atlanta, Ga., was aerial imagery specialists Geovantage.
“[We] offer an aerial imagery solution for agriculture in a rapid response format, providing you with what you want, where you want it, and when you want it,” explained Nick Morrow, Geovantage company operations manager, adding that MapShots’ customers can now receive high-resolution images of their field through AgStudio, which is why he’s at the MapShots conference.
He went on to say he wanted to present use cases so producers can see the potential of the information gathered by Geovantage and shared through AgStudio. Nick also said he expects the partnership with MapShots to grow both companies.
“The integration with the third party applications is what’s really going to change things. Now you actually use the data in the application,” he said, adding that Mapshots’ integration with Geovantage was something that came by popular demand. “Many of our customers use MapShots. They’ve been asking us for years to get the imagery in there faster, and now we should have a very seamless, push-button order.”
MyAgCentral, a division of DN2K, has announced “the first of its new cloud-based end-to-end solutions for agriculture, which gives growers a simple and affordable way to leverage aerial agronomic imagery.”
DN2K has partnered with three industry-leading entities to offer a fully integrated workflow solution that streamlines the process of flying fields and capturing, storing, processing, viewing and sharing aerial images.
MyAgCentral partners with AgEagle for UAV hardware, Prime Meridian as a MyAgCentral service provider, and APIS for UAV education and training, to deliver simple, affordable and advanced imagery solutions to support growers, agronomists and agricultural service providers.
“Right now UAVs are a very promising technology in the agriculture community, with numerous companies bringing products to market. But we’re the first group to connect all the dots and provide solutions from beginning to end. It’s the ‘easy button’ that people interested in UAVs and aerial imagery have been waiting for,” said Bret Chilcott, Founder of AgEagle.
Today Trimble announced the addition of its Trimble UX5 unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to their agriculture products portfolio for aerial imaging and mapping. The system provides farmers’ trusted advisors—such as agronomists, Trimble resellers, and other Ag service providers—with a powerful data collection tool that can aid with recommendations to improve farming operations.
The new product can to easily capture aerial images for scouting and monitoring crop health such as detecting pests, weeds and nitrogen deficiencies. It can even locate cattle and what forage they have available over large areas, measure crop height and generate topographic maps and models for land leveling and drainage applications.
Trimble UX5 flies at 50 mph and is stable in crosswinds and even light rain. In a 50 minute flight it will cover a two sqare kilometer area at five centimeter image resolution. The camera can capture the near-infrared spectrum, which helps in deducing vegetation indexes for crop health assessment. The output of a single flight provides geo-referenced precision images, a digital surface model (DSM) showing elevations as a color image and a dense 3D point cloud that includes elevations.
“The addition of the Trimble UX5 system strengthens our agriculture product portfolio and enables us to provide a solution that benefits a broad range of customers including growers, ranchers, water management contractors, agronomists and other Ag service providers,” said Joe Denniston, vice president of Trimble’s Agriculture Division. “High-speed aerial imaging is a powerful tool that can quickly and easily locate problem areas to be addressed. The faster a problem area is discovered, the better the chance it can be evaluated and resolved before crop yield is impacted.”
Trimble provides training for system operators and their observers, which focuses on safety precautions and the application of the UAS. Trimble UX5 system is available from Authorized Agriculture Distribution Partners and is subject to regulations and restrictions defined by local civil aviation authorities. Unmanned aircraft systems are currently not allowed to be flown in some regions or for certain applications. For more information on the Trimble UX5 system, visit.
SST Software, an industry leader in precision agriculture, will soon offer remote sensing services to growers and ag service providers in partnership with GeoVantage, a global provider of multi-spectral imagery.
The partnership will enable SST to provide seamless ordering, acquisition, and delivery of multi-spectral imagery across the U.S., Canada, and Australia. SST’s software currently manages approximately 85 million acres of farmland across 23 countries.
“This imagery as a data layer is used to help growers and service providers make better management decisions,” said Tim Riley, SST Business Development Director, who adds that GeoVantage has a proprietary platform for acquiring the imagery via airplanes. “They have strategically placed assets throughout the country and heavily in the same areas where we have customers. Because of that, it was just a natural partnership.”
Starting in spring 2014, ag service providers using SST Summit will be able to order imagery on demand and Riley says they are very excited about future applications. “There’s a lot of buzz around the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle systems and we plan to integrate that type of data into our system, as well as satellite imagery.”
With the conclusion of the recent Agronomics Vision 2014 conference and American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers annual meeting in Reno, the group was already looking forward to next year. In the video below, President-Elect Fred Hepler of Cottonwood Management in Oklahoma talks about plans for next year’s conference in Tucson, AZ, October 27 – November 1, 2014.
Hepler says new technology will be a bigger part of next year’s program with an expanded look at unmanned aerial vehicles and their use as a tool for managers, consultants and appraisers.
Genscape said a unique combination of spring floods and flash droughts, coupled with an unusually long growing season, have conspired to make this year’s annual corn forecast the most difficult on record. However, the company said through its Landviewer technology that utilizes precision agriculture tools, is able to simplify the complexity of predicting forecasts.
“Given the unusual circumstances around this year’s growing season, we feel our NASA satellite and big data initiatives are even more important,” said Dr. Steffen Mueller, director of spatial grain analytics at Genscape. “We are back to our original prediction of 13.3 billion bushels, and we have the hard data to back it up.”
Genscape said its LandViewer model offers next generation data acquisition techniques, integrates NASA satellite imagery, and the industry’s most unified ground-based crop yield verification – called “ground truthing – coupled with extensive analysis by experienced soil/agricultural scientists, to offer corn crop forecasting.
The company notes that normally at this time of year, the USDA incorporates Farm Service Agency (FSA) lost acreage data; however, this year that analysis has not available to market participants because of the temporary government shutdown. As a result, and because the company is able to incorporate NASA satellite imagery with best-in-the-industry ground truthing data, their latest forecast is the only known model to currently account for lost acreage data.
The use of drones in agriculture is still being questioned.
Dr. Kevin Price with the Kansas State University Department of Agronomy presented at last week’s IDEAg Interconnectivity Conference in Altoona, Iowa. He says with the new technologies that are available, unmanned aircraft systems are going to be highly beneficial in the agriculture industry. It will allow those that are using the drones to scout fields, check on livestock, and perform other agricultural applications.
In this Precision Pays Podcast we sit down with Dr. Kevin Price and learn more about how drones can be used in various ways related to agriculture.
Aerial Precision Ag is providing producers an easy to fly multirotor platform that captures HD video and photo images for use in precision agriculture operations. Producers no longer have to wait on a third party for crucial updates. The advantage of aerial imagery is giving producers immediate access to a birdseyeview of their fields to determine crop progression, plant health, storm damage, herbicide and insecticide application windows, drainage management, livestock monitoring, water runoff, as well as documented crop production.
The APA UAVs are professional multirotor units that are assembled, calibrated, and tested in the corporate headquarters in Tempe, Arizona and sold from the national sales office in Jackson, Missouri. The durable units have builtin gyros that allow for steady hovering and easy flying for every customer, and all parts are replaceable and very durable. APA multirotors can cover a two mile radius and reach altitudes up to 400 feet. Photos and video are captured on a memory card in the camera and can be transferred directly to a computer or smartphone for immediate review and storage.
Helicopters are just plain cool, especially if you can operate them by remote control. The Aerial Precision Ag booth at AG CONNECT Expo sold out of their new Multi Ready to Fly units! Using mini hand controlled helicopters for precision ag field imaging work got a lot of attention. These four rotor units were also being demonstrated right on the floor.
I visited with Halee Janes, Aerial Precison Ag, a sister company to Cirrus Rotors, to learn more about these new units they were demonstrating. In the video below you can watch Halee explaining the new units and a short demonstration of them.
Halee says the ag industry can really benefit from aerial imagery for things like checking storm damage, crop production, water damage and getting that information very quickly. The footage from the included camera is stored on an SD card which you would remove and plug in to your computer. The starter kits on sale at the show include everything a farmer needs in a box. Included are a Hero GoPro 3 camera with an SD card that holds about an hour of footage. She says you can quickly get an aerial look at 60 acres, as in just a few minutes. These units can withstand about a 10-15 mph wind, travel up to 2 miles and as high as 400 feet. The batteries included give you about 16 minutes of flight time with wind and heat being the main variables. The units are also pretty customizable as long as you consider the weight.
I had my first opportunity to learn about Hemisphere GPS during the National Agricultural Aviation Association convention when I spoke with Greg Guyette, General Manager, Air & Imagery Business. Greg says that their systems are “moving to data management, data movement, real time systems.” It’s becoming all about being able to immediately move a file or access a file to be more efficient as an aerial applicator or farmer. He mentions their purchase of Ag Junction which he says have had the best record of handling data in the past ten years.
The product Greg talked with aerial applicators the most about was their new Satloc G4 aerial guidance system.
The Satloc G4™ is the most complete and advanced aerial guidance system for aerial applicators. Satloc G4 is built with the top-of-the-line processing power of Intel® Dual-Core™ i7 processor and includes Windows® 7 64-bit operating system.
The Satloc G4 features a new 9-inch, 16:9 ratio touchscreen capable of providing faster video graphics as well as the latest in touchscreen technology. Use multi-touch gestures such as pinch-to-zoom, rotate and press and drag to access information. Experience improved connection speeds for downloading job and shape files and prescription maps. The Satloc G4 features video capabilities including Skype™ and Ethernet connectivity for cell-based modems.
It’s been around for about 30 years, but aerial imagery has changed and is bringing more information to producers than ever before.
In an interview with Cindy, GROWMARK precision agriculture manager Sid Parks says we’re not just looking at pictures anymore. “We’ve got the ability to get that information digitally, so we can use that image to quantify variability within a field,” he says. And with crop prices higher than almost ever before, farmers are more willing to spend the money on these sophisticated systems.
Parks says there are several different products available, such as satellite, aircraft or drone imagery, that show a wide array of information, and they are becoming more cost effective every day. But he cautions that farmers most likely need some help interpreting what much of this data means to their operations. “Farmers probably aren’t going to feel real good or be real successful doing this directly themselves,” adding that that’s where a good service provider, such as an FS Green Plan Solutions agent, comes in. It’s a bit like looking at an x-ray. If you don’t have an expert interpreting what’s on that image, you can’t properly diagnose the problem.
Crop scouting is a lost art. I hear so many farmers (my father included) that will say how good or how poor a field looks as they are driving by it. I’ll admit – I’m guilty of it, too. I slow down to see how things are looking and maybe even stop long enough to snap a few photos. There are now tools available to scout our fields without picking up anything more than our iPhone or iPad. In this Precision Pays Podcast we’ll take a closer look at aerial crop health imaging and how Beck’s Hybrids is marrying technology with the lost art of scouting our crops.