Aerial field inspection and imagery can be a valuable tool for growers, but there really hasn’t been a reliable “do it yourself” system that’s commercially available. Don Effren, president of a company called AutoCopter, offers an alternative — an unmanned, remote control helicopter capable of conducting field inspections from above.
AutoCopters are industrial strength, radio-controlled helicopters with GPS capability that have stabilizing and/or autopilot software to allow the helicopter to hover while the attached cameras video crops or and any other inspections, observation, photography or surveillance. The automatic waypoint features allows for a predetermined route using GPS/INS capability. The AutoCopter itself stands 20 inches high, is 62 inches long and weighs about 17 pounds.
AutoCopter gives users the ability to fly a field using GPS enabled equipment, providing a birds-eye view of what’s going on in a field. “Using GPS enabled video coupled with a traditional or infrared camera, the system provides immediate, accurate data to guide field decisions,” says Effren. “These remotely captured images can be used to identify nutrient deficiencies, diseases, water deficiency or surplus, weed infestations, insect damage, hail damage, wind damage, herbicide damage, and plant populations.”
Field monitoring for irrigation system failures and fence integrity inspection are also potential uses for the AutoCopter.
This is not experimental equipment, says Effren — the technology has been tested and is presently flying and collecting imagery in 60 countries. Helicopters start at $32,000.
For more information contact Don Effren via email.