Elbit Systems of America, a subsidiary of Elbit Systems Ltd, along with its local partners, hosted an Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) field day August 22 at the Hillsboro Regional Airport to highlight its recent HERMES 450 flights over North Dakota. The event welcomed Lt. Governor Drew Wrigley, who served as Master of Ceremonies. Also attending were U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D. and U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-ND.
“North Dakota has been called the ‘Silicon Valley of Drones’ and it is our honor to bring the Hermes 450 to Traill County,” said Elbit Systems of America President and CEO Raanan Horowitz. “Leveraging the experience of our parent company with the commercial insights of our partners, we bring advanced technology to the farmland, demonstrating effective approaches for data collection.”
Equipped with advanced sensors and high resolution cameras, such as the Vision Map A3 Edge and the Elbit Systems Compass EO/IR real time sensor, the Hermes 450 is capable of covering 40,000 acres in one hour and can remain in flight for 17 hours.
Elbit Systems of America, a US company headquartered in Fort Worth, TX, has been operating from the Hillsboro Regional Airport for the last four months where it has flown multiple precision agriculture flights. In collaboration with North Dakota State University and the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, Elbit Systems of America has worked with select local farmers to gather and analyze data for crop management improvement, increasing efficiency, and greater yield.
“Imagery from the Hermes 450 can help farmers understand and monitor changes in field variability throughout the season,” stated Sarah Lovas, Lovas Farms. “This knowledge can help us better focus our crop scouting efforts and our in-season fertilizer applications, which can save of us time and make our applications more efficient.”
Beyond precision agriculture, Elbit Systems of America is partnering with Xcel Energy, the University of North Dakota, and others to use the large scale UAS in assessing damage to utility infrastructure following storms, tornadoes, and other natural disasters. The Xcel Energy project began in July 2016 and will continue for one year with the goal of reducing utility down time while increasing safety and efficiency.
“In a natural disaster, drone technology will provide valuable damage assessment data to help Xcel Energy mobilize crews, materials and equipment to speed recovery efforts,” said Michael Lamb, vice president, Xcel Energy operating services and & enterprise transformation office. “We’re pleased to work with Elbit Systems and other partners using technology that improves energy reliability and safety for our customers and employees.”
Precision agriculture and power line assessment are just two of the commercial markets Elbit Systems of America is exploring. The HERMES 450 can also support the assessment of railroads, oil and gas lines, geology studies, and natural disasters.