LIVINGSTON COUNTY – The Griffiss International Airport team announced on Thursday that starting this fall, they will fly drones bristling with cameras to scout farmers’ fields in Western New York.
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Their mission is twofold: scout fields for consenting farmers in 60 minutes or less, and test the capabilities of the aircraft and cameras. The Cornell University Co-Op Extension will evaluate the images for agricultural data and give feedback on the vehicle’s performance.
“As it stands, we have 12 to 15 farms in ten counties,” said Bill Verbeten, Agronomist for the Cornell Co-Op Extension. “We’ll go through them one by one, starting in Genesee County. We hope to eventually expand and include more farmers.”
Griffiss gained a two-year authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to use a PrecisionHawk Lancaster Platform Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), a little plane that can be carried, launched and retrieved by hand. The vehicle weighs about three pounds, and has a wingspan of four feet.
The Cornell Co-Op Extension will review the photos for crop and soil features, and for evidence of crop damage, weed spread, or crop disease.
Griffiss is particularly interested in developing what they call “sense and avoid” capabilities for the aircraft, that is, the ability to “see” other flying objects and evade them, independently of human commands.
PHOTO CAPTION: The PrecisionHawk Lancaster Platform UAS. Image from Cornell Co-Op Extension.