UAV Makes Inaugural Flight

For a while now, the question of what will Unmanned Aircraft Vehicles (UAVs) be used for remains up in the air. One of the biggest future applications of UAVs lies with the agricultural aspect. On May 26th, SUAS News reported on a UAV making its inaugural flight at Carrington Research Extension Center. On May 5th, a new tool for precision agriculture flew was launched, marking the first flight of an unmanned aircraft vehicle at the Carrington Research Extension Center (CREC) in North Dakota. This was a groundbreaking achievement in the agricultural industry.

The aircraft flown at Carrington was a four-rotor hovercraft, also known as a Quad-Copter, equipped with both still and video cameras. The rotors were powered by electric motors running off a rechargeable battery that would provide the UAV with enough power for about 20 minutes of flight time before needing to be recharged.

After a few test flights earlier in the day, the crew operating the Quad-Copter UAV began collecting data during the flights later in the day. On the first day of data collection, three areas were covered in the data collection process: Winter wheat field where winter kill was being measured, the feedlot area where manure pack temperatures were being recorded, and a general field setting that had a large water-filled pothole. Later on, the UAV was also used to record the healthiness of multiple types of crop.

In order to determine the most efficient, cost effective, and safe way to conduct these agricultural surveys, the investigators will correlate UAS imagery with satellite imagery collected on the same dates. Additionally, the investigators will compare fixed-wing and multi-rotary UAV aircraft platforms to collect the imagery.

The primary goal of this agricultural survey/project according to John Nowatzki, NDSU Extension ag machinery systems specialist and the principal investigator on the project, is a proof-of-concept of the usefulness and effectiveness of UAS in crop and livestock management in North Dakota. Results from this year of UAS research will be used to:

• Develop methods to convert image data to information that would be useful to agricultural producers and crop consultants
• Develop business models by North Dakota crop and livestock consulting companies

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) will be used weekly or when needed to monitor each specific project as requested by the principal research investigator on the project.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to integrating UAS and UAVs into the agricultural world. Nowatzki expects that this project will validate specific uses of UAS in crop and livestock production management decisions, identify significant UAS services for the private sector projects, and promote the commercialization of unmanned aerial systems using sensors to manage specific crop and livestock management decisions.

To learn more about about the inaugural flight at the Carrington Research Extension Center, click here

Carl Phelps

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