Local lessons from the Innovation Economy: Tech Czar Talk

Event 38 was recently featured in an article by Michael C. DeAloia, offering some insight into our company and what our drones can provide for the consumer. You can read the full article here.

Drones are coming to your neighborhood

We were recently mentioned in an article featured on Cleveland.com, written by Stephen Koff, that illustrates how drones are being used and how common they will be in the near future. You can read the full article here.

Former SpaceX engineer Jeff Taylor navigates regulations, fast growth at Event 38

Recently, Adam Burroughs of Smart Business conducted an interview with Event 38 CEO Jeffrey Taylor. In it, Jeff provides some insight into the business side of Event 38 and the strategy that we have used to grow. You can read the full article here.

Drones for Business Use – Fixed Wing or Multi-rotor?

Drones for Business Use – Fixed Wing or Multi-rotor?

Founded in 2011, Event 38 builds and sells easy to use drones, sensors and a Drone Data Management System-TM . Customers all over the world use our drones for Construction, Environmental Conservation, Mining, Surveying and Precision Agriculture.

Introduction

June, 2015 –  If someone mentions the word drone today most of us think of a four or six propeller frame with a camera mounted below thanks to their tremendous growth achieved in the consumer world. You can buy a drone that fits in your hand or one as large as a manned helicopter.

But for the business user there is another alternative, the fixed wing UAV.

So if you are a farmer, surveyor, construction company, or researcher which do you choose?

For the past four years we have been focusing on small and medium sized business and overwhelmingly, the fixed wing UAV is the drone of choice.

Drones are used today for a rapidly growing list of business purposes including: agriculture, surveying, construction, security, environmental conservation, inspection, aerial & cinematic photography, and a long tail of research applications.

As the cost of digitizing the physical world has decreased from $thousands to $pennies per acre, drone technology is solving age-old problems and creating unprecedented new opportunities. Sensor technology has also made tremendous progress – we are able to measure more things more accurately than ever before. Today we can track every single plant in a crop field at the leaf level. And for the first time, drones are able to work in areas that have been inaccessible or too dangerous to consider using manned aircraft.

Finally, we believe that we have only scratched the surface of drone, sensor, and software/analysis capabilities. As regulatory environments solidify and the technology continues to advance, the sky is the limit.

Drone Purchase Considerations

There are no real standards in our industry from which to easily make comparisons when deciding which drone to buy. In general, industrial users pick drone solutions based on several criteria:

  • Application specific requirements – what problem am I solving and what and how much data needs to be collected?
  • Endurance – how long and how far can it fly?
  • Payload capacity – how much weight can it carry?
  • Cost – what is the initial price and total cost of ownership?
  • Ease of use – how easy is mission planning, autonomous flight, and  data collection & management?
  • Software capabilities – what do I do with the data once it’s collected?
  • Customer service and technical support – how good is post-sale support if I have a problem?

So which type of drone do you choose?

Above all else, you need to consider the problem you are trying to solve. What data do you need, are there geographical and/or regulatory constraints, what analysis capabilities exist, and how much drone operations experience do you need to have? And remember that drones and sensors collect data, period. The key is in creating actionable information from the data collected.

In many cases either a multirotor or a fixed wing drone can solve the need at hand. As you might expect, there is much overlap in capabilities. However to generalize a little:

  • If an application only needs limited geographical coverage (ie real estate photography) or has narrowly defined physical constraints (ie bridge inspections) and needs relatively straight forward data collection sensors (ie short video and RGB still photography) then a multirotor drone makes sense.
  • On the other hand, if the user application requires wider geographic coverage (ie 500 acre farm) or needs highly specialized sensors, (ie multispectral camera, thermal imaging, Lidar, etc) or needs to operate at higher altitudes, then a fixed wing drone is probably a better alternative.

Benefits of multi-rotor drones

Many consumer oriented drones have been successfully employed in commercial applications and others built specifically for industrial use are extending those capabilities.

There are obvious things that they can do better, for example, get into confined spaces, ie under bridges, they can hover over a specific area to capture more information, and they need little space to take off and land. Here are a few pros and cons:

Pros

  • Cost – Usually less expensive
  • Applications – really good at aerial photography and hi resolution video
  • Ease of use – good
  • Access confined spaces more easily

Cons

  • Endurance – less flight time
  • Payload capacity – usually less weight
  • Customer service – little support if you are buying a consumer drone
  • Occasional bugs, ie “fly away”

Multi-rotor Summary – Most multirotor drones can fly up to 15-30 minutes carrying a still or video camera weighing less than 500 grams. They are relatively easy to use and moderately priced, usually in the $1,500-$4000 range. Leading manufacturers include DJI, 3D Robotics, and Parrot but there are literally hundreds of manufacturers from which to choose.

Benefits of fixed wing drones

When it comes to mapping anything but very small parcels, fixed wing aircraft win hands down due to the overwhelming endurance advantage. For the serious business user, this is usually the deciding factor. Additionally, fixed wing drones can fly faster when needed and can fly much higher – important for work sites above 5000’ elevation.

Pros

  • Endurance – fly as much as 10x longer and cover more geography in a single flight
  • Payload capacity – can carry more weight
  • Applications – larger selection of sensors

Cons

  • Cost – usually more expensive
  • Ease of Use – not as easy as a multirotor
  • Size – requires more space for storage and transport

Fixed Wing Summary – The fixed wing drone is a true workhorse for the business user. Most of these drones can easily fly a 250-1,000+ acre plot in a single flight and can carry a wider range of sensors than their multi-rotor counterparts. In general, they are priced in the $3k-30k+ range depending on the application. Leading manufacturers include Event 38, Agribotix, and Sensefly/eBee but of course there are literally hundreds of others.

You choose

Event 38 has been providing drones to business users and researches since 2012 and more than 80% of our customers choose the E384 fixed wing drone.

The E384 costs 5-20 times less than our competitors, has an industry leading flight time of two hours, and can carry a 1 kilogram payload. The E384 can fly a 1,000 acre farm in a single flight and capture data at the 2 centimeter level.

Customers have flown our drones for thousands of hours all over the world. Whether it’s a farmer in Brazil, a surveyor in Africa, or a conservationist in Belize, the fixed wing drone is the UAV of choice.

However as multirotor drone capabilities continue to increase, realtors, photographers, and others find the multirotor UAV to be their drone of choice.

We look forward to the day when both types of drones are used in combination, ie capture large data plots with the fixed wing drone and zero in on specific areas of interest with the multirotor. The good news is that as users we have so many useful choices available to us today.

our comments and feedback are much appreciated! What do you think? Contact us anytime.

 About Us

Event 38 designs and manufactures drones, specialized optical sensors, and a cloud based Drone Data Management System-TM for small and medium sized businesses. Today we have customers in 49 countries using our products for agriculture, surveying, construction, environmental preservation, and other applications. Please visit our website, www.event38.com or contact us for additional information.

Crop Scouting with Drones – A Case Study in Precision Agriculture

Founded in 2011, Event 38 builds and sells easy to use dronessensors and a Drone Data Management System-TM . Customers all over the world use our drones for Construction, Environmental Conservation, Mining, Surveying and Precision Agriculture.

Precision agriculture, and crop scouting in particular, is about to take a big step forward with the use of drone technology. Countless crop management improvements will be developed once the FAA publishes regulations for commercial use of drones in 2015.

Precision Agriculture
Through recent advancements in drone technology, the cost of collecting vast amounts of information on large areas of land has decreased to pennies per acre. New, sophisticated sensors let us gather data at the plant (leaf) level at a moment’s notice, which supports speedy decision-making and an opportunity for farmers to attain higher crop yields. By adding additional data sources, we expect to find hidden relationships and make further improvements in farm management. This combination of drones, sophisticated sensor hardware, and big data predictive and prescriptive analytics will revolutionize farm management in the near future.

Crop Scouts
Crop scouts perform a key service to farmers to ensure crop success. Typically, they are engaged to identify crop issues, (i.e., pests, soil condition, disease, plant health, weeds, etc.) and to make recommendations for treatments/interventions. Currently, they periodically sample small areas and generalize their findings to the whole field. In the near future, crop scouts will use drones to analyze the complete planting area, quickly identify issues, and provide recommendations for highly localized treatments.

Case Study Results
Today we can gain basic insights about the crop. In the future we will be able to identify and quantify specific issues, allowing the farm manager to take measured action only when financially appropriate.

TodayTomorrow
  1. Spotlight areas of interest for ground investigation
  2. Determine crop height and growth
  3. Calculate crop health with NDVI
  1. Spot certain insects, diseases, weeds and pests
  2. Determine economic intervention threshold levels
  3. Count livestock and determine grazing land health
  4. Time series and predictive analytics

In late-July, 2014, we flew our E384 fixed-wing drone over a 75-acre cornfield in central Ohio.

The E384 has an industry leading flight time of two hours, and can carry a 1 kilogram payload.                             
The E384 can fly a 1,000 acre farm in a single flight and capture data at the 2 centimeter level.

 

The flight lasted about 15 minutes, was flown at 400 feet completely autonomously, and captured 140 images at a 3cm/pixel resolution.

Below are some of the findings we observed.

1. Spotlight Areas of Interest
By viewing the whole planting area, crop scouts are able to identify particular areas of interest to follow up with an examination on the ground.

Figure 1A Flyover at 400ft
Anomalous patches of bare soil visible from the air.Fig1A
Figure 1B 3cm Resolution
A more detailed view of a square shaped depression on the right side of Fig 1A, with stronger growth on one edge.1b
Figure 1C
A section of a field that shows unusual growth between rows.1c
Figure 1D
A more detailed view of the growth out of rows that most likely indicates the presence of weeds.1d

2. Determine Crop Height
Today we can sample the planting area to determine plant height. Taking periodic readings of the same area will give crop scouts an indication of plant growth over time.

Figure 2A
A cross section selection of the corn field.2A
Figure 2B
The elevation through the cross section shows the corn to be approximately 8 feet tall. 2B
In another area of the field, we identified problems with compaction or tractor damage. We can see dips in the plant height from the air if we look at a cross section of plants across a tractor track. This shows about a 1 foot difference in height. This result can be used later to help determine economic thresholds for late stage spraying.
2b2

3. Calculate Crop Health with NDVI

NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) is a simple analytical tool that indicates chlorophyll activity in plants but is also strongly correlated to plant biomass, leaf area index, and plant stress symptoms.

Figure 3A The NDVI calculation shows no plant growth at all in many of these rows, after a late application of herbicide.
3AFigure 3C The patch below appears to be either a very infertile soil or just too wet to grow anything.
3A2
Figure 3B
The area at the top of this view appears to be growing very well compared with the rest of the field. The hill appears to be sloping down into the grass waterway, with the strong growth happening on the uphill side and weaker or average growth on the downhill side of the waterway. The same thing happens again a little further downhill at the edge of the field just 25-35 yards away and the same effect is not present in other areas that receive similar sunlight at low angles.3B

Event 38 is working with crop scouts and researchers to develop next generation tools for precision agriculture. We are actively seeking collaboration with farmers, researchers, developers, and commercial partners. Your comments and feedback are appreciated. Tell us about improvements you would like to see in the near future.”

About Event 38

Founded in 2011 and with customers all over the world, Event 38 Unmanned Systems is a leading provider of easy to use unmanned aircraft (drones)sensors and a Drone Data Management System-TM  for Construction, Environmental Conservation, Mining, Precision Agriculture and Surveying.

Our drones offer longer flight times, larger payloads, higher resolution sensors and cost 5-20 times less than our competitors.

If you ever have any questions or feedback, please feel free to contact us anytime. We’re always happy to answer any questions!