AgEagle Precision Robotic aircraft increases crop yields
A robotic aircraft manufacturer called AgEagle designed an unmanned aerial vehicle aircraft to help producers increase their crop yields by gathering field photos and data.
The aircraft is equipped with cameras, sensors and software to capture the field images and then creates a map to show where the crops in the field are the healthiest and the weakest.
The collected information is then integrated into modern precision farming practices and helps producers know where to apply the necessary material or chemical to help grow the weak plants.
“Growers and farmers can apply the necessary materials to where it is needed on the weakest plants, thus reducing the amount of required chemicals and materials and increase their crop yields,” explains AgEagle Founder Bret Chilcott.
“Our core competency is to build things that fly and are very robust for the ag industry,” comments Chilcott. “We don’t make anything for any other industry, just the agricultural sector.”
He further adds, “Our system is referred to as the flying tractor of the robotic aircraft industry for ag.”
Any sensor or camera can be used with AgEagle, regardless if it’s a thermal or infrared camera. The aircraft is also equipped to take still or continuous photos, as well as videos of fields.
“This aircraft can be a huge opportunity for growers to reduce their input costs and increase their crop yields,” says Chilcott.
Chilcott gives the example of corn producers being able to detect diseases in their fields from the aerial photographs, from the differential in color of the corn, before it is detectable on the ground.
“Our system is built for agricultural work from the ground up,” describes Chilcott.
The idea of AgEagle started as a research project at Kansas State University (KSU).
“At the time we learned about AgEagle, we were manufacturing fiberglass and composite parts. We volunteered to make the aircrafts airframe for KSU,” states Chilcott. “From this project with KSU, we learned this precision technology is going to be very big. That’s when we turned our entire focus to the AgEagle.”
He adds, “We developed the proprietary flying wing, a launcher and the software to go along with the aircraft. It’s a complete turnkey package.”
The images captured by the AgEagle are processed by its software and then put into a prescription map. The map can then be loaded into a chemical applicator and directed by a global positioning system (GPS). The map directs and controls the applicator’s spray nozzles and indicates where to apply the chemical.
Producers have used AgEagle to scan and evaluate their sugarbeets, sugar cane, wheat, alfalfa, almond trees, cotton, corn and soybean fields, as well as vineyards.
The AgEagle’s airframe is constructed out of hardened fiberglass and carbon fiber with Kevlar and additional carbon fiber for its leading edges to make sure the aircraft will be very tough and stout. Chilcott notes AgEagle was designed and built to be a tool, not a toy.
“The aircraft is able to launch, fly, scan and land by itself, as well as do all of those things in about any weather conditions,” comments Chilcott. “The AgEagle also performs exceptionally well in 35 mile-per-hour winds.”
The cost of the robotic aircraft is slightly under $13,000 for the complete package of aircraft, camera and software.
The AgEagle can scan one square mile in approximately 30 minutes and is powered by two Lithium Ion four-cell batteries. Approximately 15 days is needed to manufacture one complete aircraft. The aircrafts are being sent to retail customers and dealers all over the world.
“Our biggest challenge is fulfilling our demand and delivering them to our customers,” says Chilcott. “We have quite the backlog.”
“Most of our customers are from the younger generation and understand precision agriculture,” comments Chilcott. “This new technology of AgEagle has been compared to the computer industry back in the late 1970s.”
“Very few of our competitors have agricultural backgrounds, and we understand what farmers and growers need and want,” describes Chilcott. “Our focus is to make a valuable product for our customers. There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles on our product, and it is designed to do one thing – to help the farmer and grower to be more profitable.”
Chilcott mentions most of their customers travel to southeast Kansas to Neodesha to train on how to use the AgEagle aircraft.
“We cover everything from flight safety to camera operation and how to operate the software that processes the images,” he explains.
AgEagle dealers can also provide training, sales support and customer service to their clients.
The majority of AgEagle’s dealers are located in the Corn Belt in Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska and Ohio. They are also found globally in Australia, Brazil, Chile and will soon be arriving in Europe.
Currently AgEagle is conducting a research project for cattle producers to be able to use the robotic aircraft to track and find livestock. The product is projected to be available on the market in six months.
“Cattle producers will be able to use our aircraft to detect active radio frequency identification (RFID) tags for up to 2.5 miles,” says Bret Chilcott, founder of AgEagle. “The AgEagle will be able to help producers locate their animals and check on their health.”
Chilcott further notes the AgEagle can be used to determine if animals are off by themselves giving birth or are dead. The aircraft will be able to maneuver around one specific animal and capture photographs of the animal.
AgEagle is also developing smaller and larger aircraft models.
“We have a larger design of the aircraft being developed to complete longer missions and be more suitable to fly over large rangelands to look for animals,” describes Chilcott.
The AgEagle Company is also creating a helicopter model, called a multicopter, that is able to have vertical takeoffs and landings.