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Introducing Scholar Farms: Training for Drone Pilots Who Want to Use Drones in Vegetation Mapping

Recently we met Dr. Greg Crutsinger, the founder of Scholar Farms, which is a consultancy that specializes in training for using drones for vegetation mapping.

As drone applications have proliferated over the last few years, vegetation mapping has been adopted in a variety of scenarios.

A little while back we interviewed Dr. Richard Alward, a biologist who uses drones in his work as a plant ecologist. Richard uses data collected by drone to create vegetation maps that help him keep gas and oil companies accountable for the reclamation work they’re supposed to do.

A slide from one of Richard’s presentations containing a vegetation map
created with data collected by drone

Researchers are also using drone vegetation data in their work. A while ago we wrote about a study that relied on data collected via aerial thermography to create vegetation maps that were used in the cultivation and phenotyping of cereals.

And of course farmers are using vegetation mapping to optimize yields through precision agriculture.


About Scholar Farms

Scholar Farms was founded from Greg’s extensive experience in academic research and teaching.

Drones have helped me save lots and lots of time, and they’ve also helped improve accountability for some of these companies that are responsible for restoring the areas where they drilled.

– Dr. Greg Crutsinger

While he was conducting research in the field as a PhD in Ecology and evolutionary biology, Greg caught the drone bug, and he began testing the use of UAVs on plant experiments. He became especially interested in how autonomous drone technology could enable collecting data that could impact agriculture, and how drones would allow sensors to be deployed in new and exciting ways to impact research and assessment throughout a growing season.

Check out our interview with Greg at AUVSI XPONENTIAL this year

Greg became so intrigued by the potential drones presented that he ended up leaving the safety net of academia to pursue his passion for drone technology. He joined the drone industry in 2015 as the Academic Programs Director at 3D Robotics. From there he went on to be a Sales Director at Pix4D and Parrot before founding Scholar Farms.

Scholar Farms‘ core offerings are online trainings for using drones in vegetation mapping. They recently launched Phytomappers Pro, a masterclass for vegetation mapping using drones.

The course was built for professionals, including drone service providers, agronomists, land managers, and researchers. It was built from the ground up, covering drone hardware, sensors, data collection and analytics all related to plants. It also provides a foundation in the theory behind vegetation indices, such as NDVI, and how to use and interpret them. Although the class is focused on plants, it was really built for a broad audience. So, whether you know very little about plants or are a professional agronomist, the course has something to offer everyone.

Want to learn more about using a drone for vegetation mapping? Visit the Scholar Farms website now

If you decide to enroll in one of Scholar Farm’s paid courses, make sure to use promo code FARMDRONE50 to get $50 off. (Just a note—this code is only good for 30 days, so it will expire on June 18, 2018.)

Want to learn more about what Scholar Farms does? Check out these YouTube videos highlighting their work training drone pilots to do vegetation mapping:


The post Introducing Scholar Farms: Training for Drone Pilots Who Want to Use Drones in Vegetation Mapping appeared first on UAV Coach.

A Look at the 10 UAS Integration Pilot Program Winners—Who They Are and What They Plan to Do

Recently the U.S. Department of Transportation announced the names of ten state and local and governments selected to conduct flight tests as part of the UAS Integration Pilot Program.

The ten programs that were selected will be allowed to test various types of drone operations currently prohibited by the FAA’s Part 107 rules over the next two and a half years. Some of the types of flying included in the list for testing are BVLOS flights, drone delivery, night flying, and flying over people. The program will also investigate other operational concepts, such as detect-and-avoid technologies and the reliability and security of data links between pilot and aircraft—these investigations will help in the effort to develop Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) in the U.S.

Big companies like Uber, Google (through Project Wing), Intel, Apple, FedEx, Microsoft, and AT&T were in the group of those selected, along with drone industry heavies AirMap, PrecisionHawk, and AirBus. Amazon, which has been working on drone deliveries for years, and drone industry giant DJI, both did not make the list.

The Program is expected to foster a meaningful dialogue on the balance between local and national interests related to UAS integration, and provide actionable information to the USDOT on expanded and universal integration of UAS into the National Airspace System.


Here’s a map showing the locations of the ten winning proposals (see the interactive map here on the FAA’s site):


Read on to learn more about each of the winners.

1) Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Durant, Oklahoma


PROPOSAL DESCRIPTION: The proposal focuses on agricultural, public safety and infrastructure inspections, with planned Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations over people and nighttime operations.

PROJECT HIGHLIGHTS AND BENEFITS: The proposal highlights plans to invest in mobile ground-based detect and avoid radars and advanced weather infrastructure. The awardee, along with partners CNN and the Green Valley Farms Living Laboratory, has an aggressive 90-day schedule for high-profile Extended Visual Line of Sight (EVLOS) and night operations. The data obtained from these operations will be broadly applicable, and could extend to a wide range of operations and geographical locations.

2) City of San Diego, California


PROPOSAL DESCRIPTION: The proposal focuses on border protection and package delivery of food, with a secondary focus on international commerce, Smart City/autonomous vehicle interoperability and surveillance.

PROJECT HIGHLIGHTS AND BENEFITS: The awardee will conduct UAS operations and examine new technologies not in use today by leveraging its indoor testing facilities and various drone landing stations and ports. The proposal would employ a variety of available communications technologies, including 5G test networks and the 4G LTE cellular network and AT&T’s national first responder network authority (FirstNet.) These UAS operations will provide solid data to improve UAS specific ID & Tracking systems, necessary for UAS integration into the National Airspace System.

3) Innovation and Entrepreneurship Investment Authority, Herndon, Virginia


PROPOSAL DESCRIPTION: The proposal seeks to facilitate package delivery in rural and urban settings. It includes the use of enabling technologies such as detect and avoid, identification and tracking, radar systems, and mapping tools.

PROJECT HIGHLIGHTS AND BENEFITS: The awardee seeks to leverage existing expertise through partnerships with the Virginia Tech UAS Test Site, NASA, and stakeholders with cyber security expertise. Data obtained through these diverse operations and varied operating environments will provide significant, scalable benefits to the agency and industry.

4) Kansas Department of Transportation


PROPOSAL DESCRIPTION: The proposal deploys UAS to support beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations in rural communities. It seeks to leverage a statewide unmanned traffic management system to facilitate precision agriculture operations.

PROJECT HIGHLIGHTS AND BENEFITS: Operations will use a range of technologies, such as detect and avoid, ADS-B, satellite communications and geo-fencing. The program will use existing in-state resources such as fiber optic networks and UAS Traffic Management (UTM). The awardee has a robust community involvement plan that supports the diverse operations that are planned.

5) Lee County Mosquito Control District


PROPOSAL DESCRIPTION: The proposal focuses on low-altitude aerial applications to control/surveille the mosquito population using a 1500-lb. UAS.

PROJECT HIGHLIGHTS AND BENEFITS: The proposal includes scalable solutions that take into account a broad range of current and future technologies that include ground-based detect and avoid radar systems that would integrate ADS-B, infrared imaging and satellite technology. The proposal includes night operations, BVLOS and operations over people.

6) Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority


PROPOSAL DESCRIPTION: The proposal focuses on the inspection of FedEx aircraft and autonomous operations that support airport operations such as perimeter security surveillance and package delivery. Proposed operations include working with a UTM concept that would also work with manned air traffic.

PROJECT HIGHLIGHTS AND BENEFITS: Teaming with FedEx and Agricenter International, the awardee would support an integrated environment of urban, airport, private property and farmland that would yield an estimated $500 million annual benefit to the economy. Data collected would not only serve UAS, but work with normal air traffic—truly advancing integration.

7) North Carolina Department of Transportation


PROPOSAL DESCRIPTION: The proposal seeks to test localized package delivery within a defined airspace by establishing drone delivery stations in local communities. This approach enables small businesses to utilize this delivery platform for commercial purposes.

PROJECT HIGHLIGHTS AND BENEFITS: The proposal seeks to operate over human beings, beyond visual line of sight and at night, and seeks to use a variety of technological tools to enable these advanced operations. Tools include ADS-B, detect and avoid technologies, UTM and radar technologies. The data collected from these diverse operations will significantly enhance safe UAS integration into the National Airspace System.

8) North Dakota Department of Transportation


PROPOSAL DESCRIPTION: The proposal includes a wide variety of diverse operations that incorporate advanced technologies that seek to expand UAS operations at night and Beyond Visual Line of Sight. The proposal will focus on data from four criteria: external systems, aircraft system technologies, training requirements, and processes and procedures.

PROJECT HIGHLIGHTS AND BENEFITS: Operations will be in multiple types of airspaces ranging from rural to urban areas. Working with experienced UAS research partners will lead to scalable operations for a multitude of UAS industries including linear infrastructure inspections, crop health monitoring, and media reporting and emergency response.

9) City of Reno, Nevada


PROPOSAL DESCRIPTION: The proposal focuses on the time-sensitive delivery of life-saving medical equipment, such as medical defibrillators in emergency situations in both urban and rural environments.

PROJECT HIGHLIGHTS AND BENEFITS: The awardee will integrate additional infrastructure such as radar and weather data in order to expand the UAS capability so it could save up to 28-34 lives per year, using one drone in a three-mile city radius. This proposal considers a nationwide scalable model for medical delivery operations and has several commercial medical partners.

10) University of Alaska—Fairbanks, AK


PROPOSAL DESCRIPTION: The proposal’s primary focus is pipeline inspection and surveying in remote areas and harsh climatic conditions, but it has proposed a broad range of other types of operations in urban and rural areas, ranging from public safety to UAS detection.

PROJECT HIGHLIGHTS AND BENEFITS: The awardee uses enabling technologies that include collision avoidance, detect and avoid, ADS-B, differential GPS, satellite services, infrared imaging and UTM. Operations in remote areas provide a unique opportunity to evaluate data on several advanced technologies. The unique climate and operating environment also provide an opportunity not available to other awardees.

When it comes to the potential for these ten winning proposals and what they represent for U.S. governmental interest in pushing the drone industry forward, this quote from Brian Wynne does a nice job summing things up:

The participants selected for the FAA’s UAS Integration Pilot Program represent a commitment by governments at all levels to safely and efficiently integrate UAS into the national airspace.

– Brian Wynne, President and CEO of AUVSI

The post A Look at the 10 UAS Integration Pilot Program Winners—Who They Are and What They Plan to Do appeared first on UAV Coach.

65 Lives Saved by Drone: New DJI Report Highlights Emerging Trends In Drone Rescue Operations

DJI recently released a report highlighting the 65 people who were saved by drones from May 2017 to April 2018, at least 22 of whom were in mortal danger.

The new report, “More Lives Saved: A Year of Drone Rescues Around the World,” explores new trends and draws unique conclusions about how drones are being utilized in search and rescue missions as well as resource deliveries—like this beef jerky and cookies delivery—across the globe.

A police officer in the UK comes to the aid of an unconscious man in a ditch

The report largely attributes the upsurge of drone use in public safety missions to three factors: the rapid development and innovation of drone technology, the expansion of drone usage by first responders, and increasingly thorough aviation regulations.

One thing to note: because the list was compiled from mainly English-language news reports, the total count of 65 people is likely less than the true count of drone rescues from around the world. Nevertheless, we can still see a few trends emerging from this report in terms of how drones are being used for good.

The First Trend: Improvements in Drone Technology

Thermal imaging cameras, augmented-reality overlays, and real-time image analysis have all been developed specifically for use by first-responders, and other technological innovations created for public use have been similarly adopted.

Thermal imaging cameras attached to UAVs helped save at least 15 of the 65 people highlighted in the report. The victims, who were hidden from view by either darkness or other obstacles, were located only when drones were introduced into the rescue operation.

The report details an incident in North Carolina in which an 11 year old girl went missing. It turned out that she had fallen asleep under leaves in a thicket on a 30-degree night.

As reported by local media, “It was so dark in the woods that even with flashlights, deputies walked right past the child and had to be redirected back to her by the drone pilot.”

The Second Trend: Rapid Adoption by First Responders

The rescues outlined in DJI’s report occured over 27 separate incidents.

Many public agencies use their drones over a period of months before they are credited with a drone-aided rescue operation. These agencies have made the deployment of drones standard operating procedure, increasing the likelihood that they will be able to locate a missing person or protect lives and property.

Check out this photo of two lost hikers waving to the drone that found them on a Colorado mountainside:

Image courtesy of Douglas County Search and Rescue

Not only that, but paramedics, police, and fire departments are also utilizing drones to assess safety risks for their own personnel.

In Ontario, Canada last winter, paramedics discovered that a snowmobiler had vanished under the ice of a frozen lake during a snowstorm. After using their drone to determine that the victim had fallen in over a kilometer offshore, the rescue mission became instead a recovery mission.

I strongly believe we prevented further injury or death of a first responder.

– Michael Nolen, Renfrew County Chief Paramedic

The Third Trend: Smart Aviation Regulations

Roughly half of the 65 people saved (32, to be exact) were from the United States.

While this fact could reflect a bias in English-language news reports (which provided the the majority of the information used in creating the report), it very well might reflect the value of the FAA’s Part 107 drone rules issued in August of 2016. According to the report, the Part 107 regulations “gave drone pilots a clear, reasonable path to be certified to fly drones for professional purposes, and has greatly increased the number of public safety agencies using drones.”

Image Source

However, there is still a ways to go to make these rules work for first responders.

Part 107 pilots are restricted from flying at night, over people, and beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS). While a sizable number of waivers have been granted in these areas, DJI’s report reminds us: “Drones cannot be used widely for lifesaving work unless laws and regulations allow and encourage it.”

The post 65 Lives Saved by Drone: New DJI Report Highlights Emerging Trends In Drone Rescue Operations appeared first on UAV Coach.

6 Ways Police Departments Use Drones in Their Work

We’ve seen the use of drones explode in the past few years, expanding to new sectors and providing value that previously could have only been imagined—and police departments are no exception.

From monitoring emergency scenes to helping find missing people in search and rescue operations, police departments have been utilizing drone technology in creative and life-saving ways.

Here are six ways that police departments are using drones in their operations.

Tom Agos of the Gurnee Police Department in Gurnee, IL uses a drone to assess damage following a flood

1. Mapping Highly Frequented Locations

Police use aerial data to map highly frequented locations in cities, such as malls and schools.

In the event of an active shooter scenario, fire, or other emergency that would require an evacuation or some kind of tactical response, orthomosaic maps created with data collected by drone can help law enforcement to better understand the specific situation they’ll be facing when they arrive on the scene, and prepare themselves accordingly.

Image Source

For example, during an active shooter scenario, an accurate map created with aerial data can help law enforcement find possible exit points for evacuations, or entry points where they can confront the shooter, as well as generally helping them to cover all possible openings to the structure.

[What is an orthomosaic map? An orthomosaic map is a detailed, accurate photo representation of an area, created out of many photos that have been stitched together and geometrically corrected (“orthorectified”) so that it is as accurate as a map.]

2. Documenting Crime Scenes

Sometimes there isn’t enough time to fully comb a crime scene in person, and even if you do, you might miss something.

An orthomosaic map allows investigators to look back over a crime scene in detail, even after they’ve left.

In a presentation at InterDrone last year we heard about an investigator who was able to recover a bloody cell phone after looking closely at a map of a crime scene, which ultimately helped identify a suspect in a homicide investigation.

3. Surveying Disaster Sites

Drones can help police officers get an understanding in real time of what the damage looks like on the ground following a flood, storm, earthquake, or other major disaster.

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Aerial data collected by drone can help direct resources to where they’re needed most, and can help protect first responders and emergency personnel by giving them information on the nature of the scene they’re entering, so they can avoid risks and keep themselves from harm.

After Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, authorities used drones to survey flooded neighborhoods, evaluating the damage, identifying where to divert resources first, and also looking for people who may have been trapped in their homes or vehicles.


4. Search & Rescue

UAVs can help police officers and other emergency responders find missing or lost people.
By covering large areas in a short period of time, a drone can help save a life by locating a person much more quickly than could be accomplished on foot, so that they can get the medical care they need.

In one example in the UK, a man had been thrown from his car at night in a crash and was in danger of freezing to death if not found quickly. A drone equipped with a thermal camera found the man, who had already become hypothermic, in a six foot-deep ditch over 500 feet from the crash site. Because they found him quickly, they were able to get him to medical treatment and save his life.

5. Accident & Traffic Management

Drones can provide important information during major traffic accidents by visualizing the magnitude of the accident and its impact on traffic flow.

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This information can help redirect traffic, and can also help incoming emergency units responding to other pressing issues around the accident prioritize their efforts, making the response as efficient as possible.

6. Dealing with Bombs and Hazardous Materials

Drones also help the police by investigating possible bomb threats remotely, without putting officers in harm’s way.

Not only that, but drones can help collect samples of potentially hazardous materials, either in a scenario where it’s suspected that someone is intentionally trying to hurt people, or when a spill, leak or other hazmat incident has occurred by accident. These samples can then be used to evaluate the threat, and deal with it appropriately.

For example, following an accident at a nuclear power plant where the repercussions are still unclear, a drone can help police to provide situational awareness about radiation levels and other key details from a safe distance.

Of course, these examples are just an overview of some of the ways law enforcement currently uses drones in their work. As time passes and drone technology advances, we’re sure to see even more uses crop up.

The post 6 Ways Police Departments Use Drones in Their Work appeared first on UAV Coach.

7 Big Announcements from AUVSI XPONENTIAL 2018

This week our team attended AUVSI XPONENTIAL for the first time. It was a great experience, full of learning, meeting other drone folks, and checking out the latest technology in the drone industry.

The conference covers not just drones, but all unmanned systems—AUVSI stands for Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International—but we’ll admit, we were mainly there for the drones.

Alan pointing out the UAV Coach logo on the list of partners

The conference is huge. About 8,500 attendees were expected, and over 725 companies showed up as well. But it was so well organized that you never felt overwhelmed or disoriented. (By the way, kudos to the XPONENTIAL staff for all their great work!)

There were lots of great sessions at the conference. Some of the hottest topics were drone swarms, BVLOS, and the future of drone laws in the U.S., both at the state and federal level—but given that there were over 200 sessions, this is just a tiny sampling of what was covered.

Aside from the sessions, we had a great time catching up with old friends as well as making some new ones. It’s always great to see Chris Korody of the Drone Business Center (if you haven’t already subscribed to his weekly newsletter, you should—it’s one of the best out there), Colin Snow of Skylogic Research, Enrico Schaefer of Drone Law Pro, the Skyward, the folks from BFD Systems, the InterDrone team, the PrecisionHawk team, Sharon Rossmark and Wendy Erikson of Women and Drones, Elena Buenrostro of Women Who Drone, not to mention two of our top community forum members AV8 Chuck and Steve Bennett, as well as all the UAV Coach community members and students that we got to meet . . . we could go on, but suffice to say, there was a lot of great visiting and catching up.

Alan with Drone Pilot Ground School student Jason Mazzo, owner of Mazzo Media

And, of course, there were some huge announcements made at XPONENTIAL this year. Let’s take a look.

7 Big Announcements from AUVSI XPONENTIAL 2018

1. PrecisionHawk’s BVLOS Pathfinder Report and BVLOS Drone

PrecisionHawk’s CEO Michael Chasen gave a rousing keynote on the first full day of the conference, during which he unveiled their new BVLOS platform and shared the research they conducted to find technology to enable flying beyond visual line of sight.

Flying drones over long distances–an imperative for inspecting miles of oil and gas pipeline in remote areas or hundreds of acres of crops–has been all but impossible to-date as the FAA requires very high safety standards from drone operators seeking to fly beyond line of sight.

– Michael Chasen, PrecisionHawk CEO

PrecisionHawk also released their FAA Pathfinder Report on BVLOS during the conference. The report is the result of three years of research in partnership with the FAA and MITRE, and PrecisionHawk says it can be used by companies as a blueprint for implementing their own BVLOS operations.

Alan with PrecisionHawk’s huge BVLOS drone

2. 3DR’s New GCP App

During the conference 3DR released a new app that makes it simpler for those conducting surveys by drone to capture ground control points on commercial drone projects.

This is big news because it means cutting hours of time off the usual surveying process, which previously required manually inputting ground control points. The app is enabled by the Trimble® Catalyst™ on-demand Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS).

Tasks that were being done by highly paid experts can now become commonplace. In this case, we’re democratizing precision.

– Chris Anderson, 3DR CEO

Capturing points with 3DR GCP and the Trimble Catalyst DA1 antenna

3. Intel’s Insight Platform

This week at the conference Intel revealed details about the Intel Insight Platform, a software solution for digital asset management.

The platform is a cloud-based digital asset management system that lets users store, share, and manage the data collected by commercial drone systems, allowing them to generate 2D and 3D models, take measurements, enable sharing and collaboration across teams, and run data analytics.


4. Kittyhawk and Jeppesen Partner for LAANC Authorizations

Drone ops management platform Kittyhawk announced a collaboration with Jeppesen, a Boeing subsidiary, to work towards offering instant airspace authorization via LAANC on the Kittyhawk platform.

We’re approaching LAANC as more than just a faster authorization, but a critical piece to an effective drone operation. Real-time authorization without real-time visibility, enforcement, or compliance leaves more problems than solutions for commercial operators.

– Jon Hegranes, CEO of Kittyhawk


5. FAA Beta Testing for LAANC

Also during the conference the FAA announced the phasing in of a nationwide beta test of the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC), which will allow for instant airspace authorizations. The test will deploy LAANC incrementally at nearly 300 air traffic facilities covering approximately 500 airports, and follows the successful evaluation of a prototype LAANC system last November.


We first heard about the nationwide LAANC rollout back in March. At the time, we didn’t know that the rollout would be a beta test—it will be interesting to see how quickly the system gets up and running, and to hear stories from pilots actually using it to get instant airspace authorizations.

6. AirBus and DroneBase Partnership

Airbus Aerial and DroneBase announced a partnership to offer the world’s first “multi-source data service solution for aerial imagery and data from a single provider.”

What this means is that the two companies will be combining resources to offer a single solution for aerial data, which will include data collected by DroneBase’s drone pilots as well as data from AirBus Aerial’s satellites.

We are very excited to announce this historic partnership that leverages Airbus Aerial’s significant investment in the automation of satellite, manned aviation, and drone data capture and analysis with the DroneBase API and their global pilot network.

– Jesse Kallman, Airbus Aerial President

The two companies anticipate that the partnership will be beneficial for rail companies, major utilities, and other companies whose operations take place over large areas with complex infrastructures, thus creating a need for various kinds of aerial data.


7. Winners of the First Annual XCELLENCE Humanitarian Awards

Finally, AUVSI partnered with DJI this year for the XCELLENCE Humanitarian Awards, which were announced on the last day of the conference. We love that AUVSI is showcasing the different ways drone are being used for good all over the world!


The five winners in the Humanitarian category each received a donation of $5,000 to help them increase the scale of their operations.

Here are the winners, with a short blurb about who they are and why the won:

  • Aeryon Labs, Inc. won for their efforts in providing critical aerial intelligence to first responders in Sint Maarten after Hurricane Irma.
    DroneSAR UAV won for their Search and Rescue software solution, reducing the time to locate victims and reducing risk for search teams.
  • DroneSAR Chile is the first drone-based search and rescue organization in South America.
  • Nepal Flying Labs won for their amazing work in earthquake-struck Nepal, providing maps of the area to help families locate loved ones and protect their homes.
  • Zipline International won for their innovative and global-first program delivering blood supplies to remote clinics in Rwanda by drone.

As these organizations have shown, unmanned aircraft systems that are typically flown for commercial purposes are also capable of accomplishing vital humanitarian missions.

– Brian Wynne, AUVSI President and CEO

We’re excited to see companies across the drone industry teaming up to combine knowledge and resources, both for commercial purposes as well as humanitarian. We’re sure next year’s conference will feature even more innovation and growth, and we can’t wait to see what happens next.

The post 7 Big Announcements from AUVSI XPONENTIAL 2018 appeared first on UAV Coach.

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