ATI, MicaSense team up to expand precision agriculture

By UAS Magazine Staff | October 15, 2014

Aerial Technology International is expanding its aerial system (UAS) technology business into the precision agriculture industry to help farmers make more cost-effective decisions.

Located in Clackamas, Oregon, ATI provides data through video, thermal imaging, multi-spectral imaging and tailored software applications integrated into its UAS technology. The company is teaming with MicaSense, a firm specializing in multi-spectral camera solutions, data processing and analytics.

“A large percentage of the domestic drone sales will be in the agriculture industry,” ATI co-founder Stephen Burtt says of the company’s decision to expand.

ATI was formed in 2011 by Burtt and Lawrence Dennis to provide UAS operators with support, education and resources for aerial video, photography, inspections, research and mapping.

MicaSense designed a proprietary, lightweight multi spectral camera to remotely capture videos and photos of crops. The application senses different colors of light and provides data processing, mapping strategies and analytics to determine crop vigor.

“Being on the aircraft manufacturing side, we build platforms for sensors,” Burtt notes. “The helicopter is the ideal platform for putting these sensors into sensitive areas without leaving a footprint.”

MicaSense will provide a data processing service to ATI’s customers.

“We’ll set up our own portal so that our customers can go straight through ATI and get all of their imaging processed,” Burtt explained. “It makes us a one-stop shop by letting them take care of the back-end work for us.”

As an example of how ATI can assist farmers, Burtt said that in vineyards, it’s crucial to know when grapes are at optimal ripeness for picking.

“Farmers do this now by walking the individual rows and looking at the grapes, but we could fly over and within about an hour, create amap that shows the exact sectors of the vineyard that are ripe before others,” he said.

A UAV using the MicaSense camera can see individual rows and individual plants because it flies much lower than a manned aircraft.

Burtt views precision agriculture as one of the logical applications for the early commercial use of UAS technology.

“It’s just inherently a much safer place to operate,” he noted. “Drones are being vetted and there are still some kinks to work out, but operating them over farmland is much safer than what some other people doing.”