An eye in the sky

01/11/2011 @ 1:55pm

What if you could have a bird’s-eye view without leaving the ground? And what if you could track where your irrigation is lacking, determine precise moisture levels in the ground, spot exact areas of disease in your crop, or locate weeds in a specific area?

AutoCopter gives you the ability to do that and more. “Most farms are using GPS-assisted tractors for fertilization and other applications. AutoCopter provides similar benefits,” says Donald Effren, AutoCopter president.

The remote-controlled helicopter has stabilized software that allows it to hover over target areas. AutoCopter provides a mobile aerial platform for surveillance, photography, and sensor management. Communicating by radio control or computer, it provides flight control, flight path, and video downlink.

“You are able to survey and specifically target precise areas with video. You can also fly with GPS information readouts on your laptop screen, including latitude and longitude, altitude, direction of flight, and distance from home,” says Effren. “On some models you can program 50 waypoints to allow for flying video, infrared, DSLR, and/or multispectral cameras.”

You can choose from three models (available in electric- or gasoline-powered platforms). Each model is a self-stabilizing and self-navigating, unmanned mini helicopter that flies 25 to 50 feet above crops but can also climb to 400 feet if needed.

You can fly the AutoCopter using the radio transmitter controls (joystick) forward, backward, sideways, and vertically in semiautonomous flight mode. Or with the ground control station, you can fly it in autonomous mode using preprogrammed waypoint navigation for specific missions.

About The System

Systems are prepackaged with software, hardware, video camera, and ground station. Training is included. Optional cameras like infrared, multispectral for NDVI mapping, and DSLR are available.

AutoCopters start at $32,000 and cost $2 per hour to operate. All AutoCopters have GPS, so video, pictures, and data are embedded. 

“We can provide a product that gives valuable information. For example, using a multispectral camera, you can create NDVI data for mapping your farm. With timely information specific to your farm, you can prevent mistakes in fertilization, weed control, or irrigation,” he says. “Clarity of information is significantly better. Data is collected at 25 to 50 feet above the crop – not 3,000 feet like an airplane or 600 miles by satellite above the crop.”

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