August 15, 2013
One of the best parts of the Farm Progress Shows is finding the "little" products that make huge leaps in ag technology.
Drew Janes has just such a product with his multi-rotor aerial scout. This nifty little quad-copter has a camera mounted on a gyroscopically-stabilized gimbal underneath the unit. Flying at a maximum altitude of 400 feet, farmers and crop scouts can put eyes on massive amounts of acres in minutes.
"It's an extremely user-friendly setup," Janes says. "The basic scout kit can cover about 80 to 100 acres in one flight, which takes around 10 minutes."
EASY SCOUTING: APA's multi-rotors have a maximum height of 400 feet. The max range is around one mile. Operators can scout with a flight time of 10 minutes on one battery or 18 minutes on a combined battery.
Janes' company, Aerial Precision Ag, offers the basic Scout Kit for $3,800. It comes with the multi-rotor aerial device, the gyroscopically-stabilized gimbal, a Go Pro Hero3 camera, a remote control, two batteries and a backup set of copter blades. All of that is packaged in a foam-lined Pelican case – the gold standard for protecting electronic gear.
Ease of use
Janes notes the unit is extremely easy to use. Most folks are off and flying with less than 30 minutes of training. Of course, it takes a while to become a pro.
"Part of learning to fly is hard landings or even crashes," Janes says. "We know that, which is why we use a very robust platform with easily replaceable parts."
Janes speaks from experience here. He remembers demonstrating the technology at a farm recently. One of the blades unexpectedly came loose and he lost control of it. It plowed into a grain bin at full speed. Janes says it looked like the unit "exploded." The farmer gasped.
Fifteen minutes later, Janes had the copter back in the air for the demonstration.
New custom kit
At the Farm Progress Show, APA will release a new system Janes has dubbed the "APA X4."
It's a serious upgrade from the Scout kit. The brushless gimbal system makes for a much smoother shot. Plus, it comes with video downlink so the operator can see what the quad-copter sees in real time. It's also capable of carrying infrared camera technology.
The biggest upgrade is a GPS-guided automation system. Using a laptop, the operator can set up to 150 waypoints on a map. Hit a button and the multi-rotor takes off, flies the route and lands all on its own.
The APA X4 system is customizable for each farmer's needs. Depending on options, Janes expects it will retail for $5,000 to $10,000.
Be sure to check out APA's technology at the show. They're located in the Varied Industries Tent, which is between Fifth and Fourth Street, west of Central Avenue. APA will also be scheduling demonstrations throughout the show so potential customers can see how easy it is to fly one of these devices.
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