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3DR Drones, Making Maps and Wine in Sonoma County


For the past year or so 3DR has been working closely with Ryan Kunde of DRNK Wines, of one California’s storied Sonoma County wineries. Ryan uses our drones to create aerial maps and overviews of his vineyards, field references which help him make more informed decisions about grape selection and blends, and better see and understand vine stress and vigor. A few weeks ago 3DR made one of our regular visits to the Kunde Family Vineyard to create some maps with Ryan as he gears up for this year’s harvest, and will have a video of this use case forthcoming. Writer Jolene Patterson was there with us, too, and wrote an excellent overview of Ryan’s project with 3DR and the future of drones in viticulture.

In the coming weeks, this blog will cover agriculture and mapping applications in detail. To lead us in, here’s an abridged version of Jolene’s informative and insightful article about 3DR at Kunde Vineyards. Viticultural Drones—Just Another Tractor? Nature’s signs are ever present in the Kunde Family Vineyard as Sonoma County’s harvest approaches with copious amounts of ripening grapes, yellowing leaves, and hungry birds. But the morning air whispers a subtle mechanical sound as a 3D Robotics‘ autonomous multicoper lands among the vines.

Drone news is often military related, but drones can be used for everything from agriculture to delivering pizza.  The 2014 Precision Aerial Ag Show drew 1,000 midwest farmers, and Japan has been extensively using drones in agriculture for 15 years. 3D Robotics wants farmers to use drones the way they would any piece of farming equipment and is creating products to meet those agricultural needs.

Ryan Kunde, 5th-generGrapes Smallation viticulturist and winemaker from DRNK Wines, is surveying the grapes to be harvested in the Kunde Family Vineyards near the old winery ruins in the Sonoma Valley AVA. Kunde Family Vineyards is a remarkably diverse 1,850 acre farm, with less than 40% of its land devoted to vineyards and topography that varies from 1400-foot mountain tops to rolling hills to a valley floor. The vineyard acreage is home to around 20 varietals grown in a volcanic band of “Red Hill” soil.  Ryan is very familiar with this large vineyard; he grew up here among these sustainably-grown vines talking easily about the the land, the lakes and grapes in a knowledgeable but unpretentious manner. But today he wants a bird’s eye view of these vineyards to help him assess areas of vigor and stress, because he needs to determine harvest timing and row locations.

This time of the year, growers and winemakers alike are walking the vineyards sampling the fruit and making tDrone 1 Whiteheir most important decision of the year – when to harvest. But is that really the only question? More and more I am hearing that separating the grapes from different areas of the vineyard so that more complex and interesting wines can be blended at bottling is almost as important as harvest timing. How do you evalutate all of the important or possibly important grape variations within a large vineyard like Kunde Family Vineyards? For Ryan the answer is viticultural drones. Drone photographic images can be accumulated long-term to assess vineyard patterns and perform maintenance. Additionally, they can be used for on-demand aerial images as he is doing today.

Imaging 2Images are created from autonomous, fixed-wing planes and multicopters with a point-and-shoot camera mounted inside. 3D Robotoics software then stitched the images together to generate the 3D model of the vineyard. Color variations in the 3D photographic model of vineyard help select sampling areas for possible seaparation during harvest.  Then it was back to the manual process and out into the vineyard to pick grapes to test for harvest readiness, using additional tools of the harvest (refractometer).

SamplingDrones are obviously not a replacement for a knowledgeable vineyard manager or winemaker, but another farming tool.  Drones can be a cost-effective solution in difficult terrains, newly acquired vineyards, or large properties to assess areas for manual evaluation or maintenance.  This evaluation can include watering or fertilizations requirements, pest control, general vineyard vigor, or harvest readiness. Ryan can send vineyard workers with guided GPS to specific areas of the vineyard to work and make informed decision about grapes to be separated during harvest so that he has the ability to make better decisions and better wine once the grapes are back in the winery.

Imagery is not uncommon to agriculture, but hiring planes or using satellite technology is more expensive and subject to weather and timing.  Planes often need to be hired weeks in advance and satellite images are difficult when clouds interfere.

Drones technology is moving to meet this agricultural need with two trends drivening drone expansion (and reducing pricing) one is open source technology and second is the development of the Maker Movement for do-it-yourself (DIY) techies. Ryan’s interest in technology began with a childhood interest in radio-controlled cars. Today, he owns autonomous fixed-wing planes and is beta-testing multicopters, both equipped with GPS location systems and point-and-shoot camera technology.

The most important factor in any harvest is still the man or woman guiding the process, our wonderfully talented growers and winemakers, but using every available tool to make the best decision can give you an edge. Ryan is producing some incredible wines with a complexity that I love. So perhaps it isn’t just another tractor, but a new innovative tool to allow a talented winemaker to improve his winemaking starting in the vineyard!

Read Jolene’s article in full here.

The post 3DR Drones, Making Maps and Wine in Sonoma County appeared first on 3drobotics.com.

From The Economist, Chris Anderson on Drones: A Short History, Long Future

_Q7A8808 In this interview with GE’s “Look Ahead” section in The Economist (his former employer), Chris explains why he thinks drones will change the way we work, play and live, as well how a dad with a spare weekend became one of the most prominent advocates of affordable drones and began mass-producing them himself.

3D Robotics Partners with Intel, Develops New Drone Power

On Tuesday, 3D Robotics announced that we’ve partnered with Intel in the development of Edison, a new microcomputer that basically gives you PC power in postage stamp size, at an almost universally accessible price. We’ve worked closely and for a long time with Intel on this project because the combination of Edison’s incredible power and  affordability will lead to truly revolutionary advancements for our company, and for the Internet of Things in general.

The Edison board has the kind of processing that at one time you could only find in a personal computer. This means that when we integrate Edison into our next-generation autopilot, we’ll be able to make incredible leaps forward in on-board image processing, sense and avoid, new classes of sensors, and artificial intelligence, with many more eggs yet to be discovered and cracked open. The technology is now here. The challenge now is to start doing important and interesting things with it.

For instance, for the big announcement on Tuesday we ran a demo of IRIS+ using an “optical” version of our 3PV™ Follow Me technology, with Edison as a companion computer to our Pixhawk autopilot. That sounds way too technical. But what that really means is that with the extra computing power from Edison, 3PV™ can now track people and objects with vision instead of relying on a GPS signal, so you won’t need to carry another device on you anymore—you can just go and the drone will visually recognize where you are and keep the camera on you.

it_photo_214981_52 3DR CEO Chris Anderson called the partnership, “A rich collaboration between Intel’s engineers and ours to integrate the Edison into our platform and add image processing power.” For Chris, Edison unlocks what you might call “the long tail of drones.” In other words, drones won’t come in a handful of sizes and models with a handful of universal capabilities, as they do today. Instead, drones will be customized and adapted, changed and invented and reinvented to meet an untold number of needs and solve an untold number of problems, most of which we aren’t even aware of today. That’s the long tail. With additional computing power from Edison, 3DR will build drones that can do more things for more people in more industries, and eventually drones that can be infinitely tailored to meet the many unique needs of the real world that are out there now, waiting for their applications to come along.

WikiDrones: What “Open Source” Means to 3DR Customers


At 3D Robotics, all of our software is open source. And we’re not alone: a huge percentage of major companies develop or run on open source software and systems, including Facebook, Google, Wikipedia, WordPress, Twitter, Netflix, Mozilla, even MasterCard and Bank of America. Most of the internet is hosted on open source Apache servers, and the bestselling smart phones in the world, Android devices, are also open source.

What does open source mean? In short, it means anyone has the freedom to run your program, to change the program, to redistribute exact copies, and to distribute modified versions. Companies see many advantages in this open source model: technological advancement, cost, efficiency, security, ethical cred, etc. At 3DR, we’re deeply proud of our open source roots, and proud to support open efforts like ardupilot: these people and projects are to thank for all that 3DR is today, and they matter deeply to us in both principle and practice.

But: We’re also aware that, to almost everyone on the planet, this stuff doesn’t matter at all. Most people, and rightly so, just care if the thing they use works well or not. However, if you’re looking to buy a drone, our open source model really does matter to you, and in very practical ways. Here’s why.



First, and obviously, open source means we can keep prices down in favor of fostering more development. For instance, this means that we can sell you a Pixhawk, one of the most sophisticated and capable autopilots on the planet, for less than $300. Comparable autopilots sell at four or five times that amount. So if you don’t think you see the benefits of open source from day to day, you can see the open source spirit in our encouraging prices. But you’ll find you get even more from those prices…



Many products have built-in obsolescence, meaning they fall apart and age prematurely, so that you need to repair them or buy new versions regularly. Obviously, this is a lucrative business model, particularly at the speed that the high-tech world changes. How many iPods have you gone through?

But because 3DR drones are open source, they have built-in evolution. As we continue to develop cool new software functions and improve on already existing ones, you can keep pace with us and download the latest for free. So if you buy an IRIS or an X8, its software won’t go obsolete, it will only improve. As that old saying goes, “Wine and drones from 3D Robotics get better with time.”


Advanced technology, fast

Not only will your software keep pace with the company, we’ll both do so at an incredible rate. 3DR are the stewards of the DIY Drones community–today there are over 55,000 of us–home to an enormous and almost disturbingly intelligent and dedicated global developer base. With this number of experts working in concert around the world, we come up with new and better features and functionality and implement them in our products and software much faster than a closed-source company ever could. Imagine Wikipedia, but for drones. And they do it all for free, for you.


Because we have so many top-shelf minds at work here, we’re able to respond what our customers need. Instead of only offering products to our customers–telling them what they want–we have the capacity to listen to what they want, and more importantly, to incorporate their ideas quickly into our products. This goes from high-end specialized enterprise applications to cool consumer features: It’s how we developed and refined our advanced 3PV Follow Me mode, for instance. So if you have an operation you need a drone to perform, or a great idea for an app, chances are we can make it happen.

Plus, if you’ve got a mind to do it, you can always just edit and add to the code yourself. That’s what free and open can do. For proof of how useful and beneficial this is, just ask the multitude of drone companies built on our platform.

In the end

Open source projects embrace open exchange, collaboration, and community contribution. And this means as much to you and your daily decisions as it does to us geeks on the other side of the screen. Thanks to open source projects, where Wikipedia was once a punchline, it is now a given. And where drone was once a dirty word, now they can be anything we, and you, want them to be.

Life from Above: Global Drone Network Empowers Humanitarian Efforts

Image: Flood in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Flooding in the Balkans, early 2014

A few months back an employee here at 3D Robotics told me, “The day one of our drones saves a life, just one life, everything we’ve ever done here will have been worth it—everything, everything.”

No one understands this better than Patrick Meier, founder of UAViators.org (pronounced “Wave-iators”), a global humanitarian network of professional, civilian, and responsible hobbyist drone pilots.

“The question today isn’t if drones will one day assist in humanitarian efforts,” Patrick says. “They already do. The question now is how to facilitate that in the most effective, safe, and responsible way.”

That is, when it comes to the usefulness of drones, we’re not talking about “possibility” or “the future” anymore. We’re talking about the present, about having right here and now a new way to solve old problems.

One persistent problem with disaster relief efforts has been that all of our traditional delivery, survey, and assessment mechanisms are in some way constrained by infrastructure—roads, airports, waterways, railways, power and communication lines, etc.—which in crisis zones are obviously often destroyed or unusable. Drones are unique in that they can achieve these same goals while operating outside of infrastructure, offering “frictionless” access to treacherous parts of the world where and when help is needed. And because drones carry less risk and expense than manned flight, and are also more mobile and flexible, more people can use them to gather more information more quickly, and often in greater detail, with much less risk to life.

The Belize Fisheries Department launches a conservation drone to monitor illegal fishing.

The Belize Fisheries Department launches a conservation drone to monitor illegal fishing.

And these aren’t petty capabilities, “local drone does good” window dressing to attract a buying public to a new technology. In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, drones were sent in to map radiation levels where no person could safely go. And after Typhoon Yolanda devastated the Philippines last year, drones conducted aerial damage assessments of otherwise inaccessible areas. In Kenya it’s been reported that drones could reduce poaching by up to 96%, and in the poaching war currently underway in South Africa’s Kruger National Park—every four days a park ranger is killed in firefights with poachers—the technology promises similar and very welcome returns.

Meier realized that if you could safely and reliably crowdsource this power to qualified and certified volunteer pilots around the world, you’d have a global response network with nearly zero lag time. And to take that even further, you could combine that scope of information with the analytical power of Big Data. Meier believes that this combination—user-generated aerial imagery paired with widespread mobile access—will greatly increase a community’s ability to self-organize. And so he organized his own community, UAViators.org.

Though they’ve only been active for six months or so, they’ve come quite a long way. Check out their successes below.

The Crisis Map


Provides situational awareness in the form of an interactive map of aerial videos from crisis zones around the world. Pilots upload their video, and anyone with an internet connection will have free and immediate access to valuable and actionable information. This month, the map will also enable the sharing of static pictures.

A “TripAdvisor” for Drones

UAViators has also opened a Wiki travel guide, a resource for information on drone laws and regulations around the world, and a place for pilots to share their travel experiences. It’s open for contributions.

The UAV Review

Meier’s team is in the second stage of reviewing over 170 UAV platforms, including several 3DR models (we’re looking pretty darn good), along a wide range of criteria from flight time to payload capacity to cameras and software for image analysis. The results from the first stage are posted in an open google spreadsheet, and Patrick has invited anyone to contribute.


The United Nations

Echoing our own sentiments at 3DR, Meier says, “We really need enlightened leadership and policy making in the humanitarian UAV space.” This is a big reason he organized an Experts Meeting at the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The meeting will be held this November, and will feature representatives and volunteers from across the industry.

UAViators.org invites people around the world to contribute their knowledge and expertise to the humanitarian space: pilots, imagery analysts, policy folks, hardware/software experts, researchers, and anyone else in a position to help. Because in this case it’s quite literal: we need all the help we can get.

Learn more about UAViators.org.

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