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AeroVironment’s hybrid drone ushers in the next generation in flight


Imagine not having to choose between a fixed-wing UAV and a quadcopter for your farm, but instead getting the best of both worlds.

Later this year, AeroVironment, a California-based company built around decades of military drone technology, will be entering the ag sector with its hybrid craft called Quantix. The drone was on display at the National Farm Machinery Show, where AGDAILY got not just a closeup look at the machine itself, but we got to try out the control system.

Despite technology being vital to the success of our farms, it’s rarely a surprise to hear some reluctance to having to learn to use new tools and to adopt new programs.

“One of the major things we did with the Quantix drone was design it around the user experience,” said Matt Strein, AeroVironment’s Director of Business Development. “It’s easily adaptable.”

He was right.

The past couple of years were spent honing the traits of Quantix, which including seeking help at the university level to bring the concept together and assure its value to the ag community.

“Where we differentiate ourselves [from our competitors] is in the user experience, in the ecosystem that’s fully integrated with hardware and software, and with creating actionable intelligence,” Strein said.

The fully automated Quantix drone has removed the cumbersome task of drawing up a flight plan for the user. All you need to do it feed it some basic details to help it find the right field, approve the weather conditions, and give it the go-ahead. It takes off vertically and then transitions to fly horizontally, going up to 400 acres on one battery in 45 minutes. While the drone does most of the thinking, you’re still the operator, and you can choose to land it any time you want using the tablet-based Ground Control System.

AeroVironment has created all the hardware and software for the machine, as well as the mobile app.

“The second our craft hits the ground,” Strein said, “you can see the field in an RGB view and NDVI.” (On RGB, it provides 1-inch pixels; on NDVI, it’s 2-inch pixels.) Crop issues can be addressed immediately. To obtain advanced analytics, the drone’s data can be uploaded to a portal, where AeroVironment processes it to further help identify anomalies in plant health.

“In our fully automated system, we’ve optimized what those sensors are doing,” Strein said.

The data will be stored securely in the cloud for growers to view either on their mobile device or on a desktop computer. The platform is equipped with an alert system that instantly notifies farmers of anomalies in the field so that immediate action can be taken to address stressors.

This is at least two years in the making, and it incorporated tens of thousands of acres of cropland into perfecting its analysis abilities. The Quantix drone is poised to usher in the next generation of drone flight.

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