If there is one constant in agricultural, it is change. And that's even more the case for drones in agriculture, as there are constant improvements in aircraft, sensors and software. The InterDrone conference in Vegas this week had thousands of participants from 58 countries -- here are a few highlights that I think might apply to uses on Canadian farms.
VTOL: Vertical takeoff with fixed-wing acreage efficiency
In a single flight, our AgEagle RX60 is able to cover well over 300 acres at 5 cm/pixel resolution. But in order to achieve that type of coverage, it takes advantage of the fact that it only requires one propeller driving it forward. If there is one big complexity in flight for all of the current fixed wings for agriculture, it is the landing. We have all, unfortunately, seen some landings that don't exactly touch down exactly where we would like. Luckily, fields are large and we can put it down safely anyway -- but long walks into standing crops are neither enjoyable nor efficient.
There were two VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft at InterDrone. There was the XCraft of Shark Tank fame, which can carry a GoPro camera. But since we are sold on the value of true multispectral imagery, I found the FireFly6 the most interesting option. Its 6 propellers rotate to switch from vertical to horizontal flight. And they have already built a mount for the Slantrange sensor that we have been selling under the Matrice 100. We can't wait to start testing this aircraft.
Dropping Things on a Farm?
We've been toying with the idea of trying some of the more ruggedized drones being developed for use around lakes (largely for recreation). Farm conditions are never ideal -- wouldn't it be great to not have to worry about a little bit of moisture?
We came across the Splash Drone at InterDrone -- it is completely waterproof and can take off right out of the water. What's more -- it has an integrated dropping mechanism that lets you release a payload of up to 2 pounds exactly where that payload is needed. I'm sure most of you would love to use it for fishing, but there must be hundreds of practical uses for this on our farms ... what are your ideas?
Our customers appreciate being able to buy everything they will need in one large package. Those of you who have seen our demo trailer will have noticed that we have a few nice-to-haves that aren't yet part of our packages. Things like our rubber takeoff mat make things so much easier in the field. We will start bringing you some of those additional options through our online store in the coming month.
In the meantime, there was not shortage of gadgets and accessories at InterDrone. Our favourites:
- portable launchpads (to protect your props from canola stubble)
- iPad hoods (to help you see the live video feed of your crop clearly)
- FPV goggles galore (ideal to give customers a closeup view)
- Battery chargers to take all of your batteries to 100% in an hour
What kind of accessories would get you excited? Let us know as we build our inventory.
Surprisingly Missing: New Imaging Options
There really weren't many new good crop imaging options at the show. Some of the old standby's were there with camera arrays, and some new ones that will be ready in the coming year (but will require much integration before they are easily usable in the field). There was huge interest in the Slantrange booth at the show, and it was good to chat with the good folks there about their plans for the future. Their sensor systems are already showing us variability not visible with other systems we've seen, and more improvements are coming down the pipe soon.