The trip two years summers ago to the Precision Aerial Ag Show was an eye opener. The event - which offered in-air demos and presentations for farmers - got its fair share of attention. For me the first thing I thought was even with this small show there are a lot of players vying for this market. Second thought? Partnerships and consolidation are inevitable.
In addition, groups involved in aerial data collection are starting to come together as well. Read on as we provide an update on the UAV industry and some of the moves that are happening in this tech area.
Looks like some of that is starting to come true as the UAV market turns down the road toward maturity. We featured an in-depth look at a new partnership between PrecisionHawk and DJI Global that offers ag users some new features for gathering field data. In addition, PrecisionHawk also announced a new round of Series C funding with many companies including DuPont Pioneer.
AgEagle also announced this week that has chosen Botlink for UAV control and safety. Botlink, a Fargo, N.D., tech firm offers an add-on that will allow the AgEagle fixed wing aircraft to send information from the sky to the cloud for easier access for analytics. That'll make all the information the AgEagle airframe collects - normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) imagery, photography information more easily available.
The value of that live Internet connectivity from the sky is faster availability of data for in-season decision making. AgEagle also made a deal earlier this year with Raven to have that firm become the distributor of the fixed-wing system in the field. Another important move as the UAV market matures - building a field-level support system. Learn more at ageale.com and botlink.com.
And while we see partnerships starting to form we're also seeing new players enter the market. Slantrange is a new company - it just got Series A financing so it's breaking out from early development - with a sensor/software package the company claims will help you get more information from a single UAV flight.
In fact, Slantrange says it will double the resolution, data collection rate and processing efficiency over its prior generation. The result is that a single flight could cover twice the area on the same charge - welcome news for folks with that 20-minute flight time restriction for many drone batteries. The company has a multi-spectral sensor - gathering more information in a single pass - and adds that its newest software version provides increased data processing speeds. Learn more by visiting the company website slantrange.com.
This week is the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International is holding its big annual event this week - one reason for some of the ag releases we're getting - but they're not the only drone show this year. But there's more.
First there's a new association beyond AUVSI (which has been around awhile). The Commercial Drone Alliance has been formed with a wide range of well-known groups from Cisco to CNN joining the organization.
Formation of the group aims to "give the drone industry a powerful, centralized voice so that industry can be well represented in legislative and regulatory matters that affect the use of these machines for enterprise," says Brandon Torres Declet, CEO of Measure (a drone-as-a-service firm). The group will aim to be the voice of the drone and UAV data collection industry; and it's already formed its first partnership.
The Drone World Expo has combined forces with the new Commercial Drone Alliance to make the expo the new alliance's official trade show. The event, scheduled for November 15 and 16, 2016, will be held in San Jose, Calif. This isn't the first partnership the expo has announced. In April, the Drone World Expo added partners in several areas for its November event.
The new partnerships include the Air Traffic Control Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and MAPPS, which is an association of photogrammetry, mapping and geospatial firms. Looks like San Jose may be the place to be if you want a true catch-up on drone tech.
But it's not the ONLY UAV-focused event. A communications firm started the Commercial UAV Expo last year and will continue its event in 2016 - which will be held Oct. 31 to Nov. 2 in Las Vegas. It's another trade show, and now it's powered by a website - commercialuavnews.com too.
So maybe we said the wild west atmosphere was slowing cooling off? But with three big competing shows and two a week apart, perhaps we're still in the early crazy days of a new technology. It can be fun for a journalist to watch, but for farmers trying to make sense of these new tools it can be confusing.
We'll do our best to help you sort things out.