UK Met Office Doing Worldwide Natural Disaster Warning Systems

The UK Met Office is working with the US Government (not the National Weather Service/NOAA), NASA, and Google to increase natural disaster warning systems across the globe.  Forecasts will be on the seasonal/climate area in Africa and Asia.  The goal is to improve public safety and encourage proper farming returns for the local populations.  One of the areas for improvement is to train and equip in-country weather agencies to be able to reach out to the local populations.


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UAV Agriculture Trials in Australia

ABC Rural has a good article about how UAVs in Australia are at the end of a 18 month trial to test the effectiveness.  The UAVs fly in traditional aerial survey patterns, capture imagery down to 1cm pixels, flight levels of just under 400ft, and within line of sight.

The article mentions flight costs of $30-50/hr and consultant doing the flights, not the farmers or larger agriculture interests.  The ROI is planned around small, 80 hectacres of imagery.

Unless flight rules change through CASA (FAA of Australia), flights will continue to be through contractors who have gone through the approval process, which is long and costly and not cost effective for the average farmer or larger agriculture interest.  CASA will also need to change the flight rules to allow flights outside line of sight to be useful for larger agricultural plots.

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UAV Industry Still In Application Test And Evaluation Stage

Since my last posts on this topic a few months ago on this blog, the Prairie Business magazine put out a good article out about the growth adapting issues in the agriculture remote sensing market.  The story mentions that the market has not taken off like some have expected because of the farmers/agriculture managers do not see the Return on Investment for UAV flights right now.

Some of it which is not mentioned in the article is the recent decrease in commodity prices, which means UAVs do have to compete with tighter budgets than in times with higher prices.

Also, as the article mentions, UAVs are still in the test and experimental stages with tweaking sensor returns, increasing flight times to cover more area with each flight, and other issues.

This is just the agriculture market, UAVs are still expanding and exploring new applications and markets for viable profitable flights.  Some will be long term revenue generators, some will not, time will tell how the eventual UAV market shakeout will bring about changes as the market matures in coming years.

(c)2015 Charles Schoeneberger

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National Water Center Opening in Alabama

The National Water Center is opening at the University of Alabama.  Its stakeholder goals are to improve flood and water forecasts for emergency responses for flooding or drought like the recent events in California and Texas.  The goal will be to take the current flood data down to the house level, a scale which has not been done on a operational level before.

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BNSF Railroad Starting to use UAVs to Survey Rail Assets

BSNF Railroad will be testing UAVs with a FAA Exception to operate Beyond Line of Site.  They have 32,500 miles of railroad track and are testing UAVs even with their limited ranges of around 4miles for some models.  PrecisionHawk USA are providing the UAV aerial platforms.

The UAVs will be equipped with small LiDAR systems to detect cracks and other track defects.  BNSF is also experimenting with a security observation role to keep the tracks clear due to trespassing on the right of way of the railroad tracks.

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LiDAR Sensors On a Chip To Open Up More Mobile Solutions

The SPAR Point Group has put out a good article about the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, part of the Department of Defense and their assistance in working to product LiDAR sensors on a chip without any mechanical way to change the direction of the laser,which up until now has hampered scanning due to the sensor size requirements with the mechanical movement.

It is supposed to sweep at 100,000 times a second, 10,000 times faster then current mechanical technology.  The main limitation is the scan range is only 51 degrees and does not have manufacturing precision levels yet.  I expect that future revisions of the technology will work to overcome the limitations in the future.

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Silicon Valley Going Rural

More and more companies in the west coast Silicon Valley area of the United States are getting into agriculture technology development.  A recent Fortune article mentions how companies from Google to Monsanto along with many other startups are jumping into the agriculture data realm.

UAVs are also part of the growth as part of the remote sensing umbrella for data acquisition according to MIT Technology Review.  This article also mentions capturing weather data on field-scale levels.  This will probably grow in the future with increased weather data that can be used for better future modeling with atmospheric and other applications.

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