AgWatch


Bird’s Eye View

AgEagle Offers View Of Crops In Time To Correct Problems

BETTY VALLE GEGG-NAEGER
MidAmerica Farmer Grower

PERRYVILLE, MO.
   Farmers now can keep a close eye on their crops throughout the season with the use of AgEagle, an unmanned drone outfitted to map the field and pinpoint areas of stress. AgEagle is available from Heritage Ag, a family-owned five-store complex operating in Northeast, Central and Southeast Arkansas.
   Mike Linton, general manager of Heritage Ag, said his company has been involved with the drones the past eight months and now has several on order. He expects them to arrive sometime in April.
   “We started researching drones a year and a half ago,” he said. “We were interested in tying it in with the GPS precision agriculture system we sell on tractors and combines. The drones can map the crops at three different growing stages.”
   His research led him to Bret Chilcott of Neodesha, Ks., owner of AgEagle, the drone designed specifically for agricultural purposes.
   Presently, a farmer can operate the AgEagle remotely, or can program the coordinates and the drone will create its own flight plan. Once the FAA approves the rules and regulations, farmers can hire someone else or a company to custom fly the Ag Eagle over fields.
   “Instead of waiting until harvest, if there’s a problem a farmer will know in time to scout that area and  take steps to correct the problem, whether it’s insect infestation, drought or moisture stress or a nutritional deficiency,” Linton said.
   The AgEagle has a 56” wingspan, and measures 6.5” in height while 28” long. It has a high electric 72 oz. thrust and the propellers are precision balanced. It runs on two lithium ion 4-cell batteries providing 14.8 volts. The AgEagle has a fail-safe low battery sensor, and can fly for 30-40 minutes, covering 640 acres per flight, cruising at 40 mph so fields can be diagnosed quickly. It can be flown with a laptop PC with ground control software. It requires a 75 foot landing distance.
   AgEagle allows farmers to increase yields and reduce input costs by creating aerial images of crops. The AgEagle precision agriculture photography system is designed for agricultural professions so they can have a complete aerial view of their crops to help precisely identify crop health and field conditions much faster than any other method available. It permits the farmer or agronomist to view the entire field rather than just a small portion.
   Images can be either still or video photography. Still photography includes standard full spectrum color photos or NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) enhanced photos that mimic infrared wavelengths. The NDVI enhanced photos clearly show the health of plants.
   Video images can be recorded, or as an option, the flying wing can be equipped with a FPV (First Person View) system, which lets the viewer see as if they were flying in the craft in real time. During a mission, images are saved on memory cards and then later downloaded to a computer equipped with specialty software to compile the images into a usable high-resolution photograph.
   The aircraft itself was designed to be “tractor tuff” so it can withstand challenging flying conditions and operators with varying degrees of expertise. The wing is hardened with fiberglass, Kevlar, carbon fiber components and other composite materials so as to improve survivability and to protect the investment. The AgEagle flying wing performs well even in windy conditions.
   The AgEagle will be a dependable component of a precision agriculture program for a wide range of farm and ranch applications.∆
   BETTY VALLE GEGG-NAEGER: Senior Staff Writer, MidAmerica Farmer Grower
MidAmerica Farm Publications, Inc
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