VineView-SAI, Inc., a St. Helena-based remote sensing company, has partnered with SkySquirrel Technologies Inc. (SST), a commercial Unmanned Aerial System company based in Nova Scotia, Canada, to create the Aqweo agricultural drone, which will be launched at the Napa Valley Grape Growers’ trade exhibition.
VineView is contributing its 15 years of experience in remote sensing of vineyards and other high value crops to the development of a fully integrated drone system for high resolution imaging of vineyards, citrus and nut crops. “Partnering with SST allows us to bring the technologies we’ve developed to new markets as well as provide additional options for our current customers,” said Matt Staid, Ph.D., President of VineView. “Canada has been a leader in supporting the commercial use and testing of unmanned aircraft, allowing us to start using this new platform sooner than would otherwise be possible.”
SST has been developing and testing its robust, portable, commercial drone system for the past 2 1/2 years. “What we see missing in the current drone marketplace is a commercial-grade UAS delivering a turn-key aerial imaging solution for growers,” said SST CEO and co-founder, Tim Stekkinger. Other manufacturers are focusing on the drone itself, whereas the Aqweo delivers a complete GPS-guided system, including customized onboard imaging equipment which allows for crop-specific imaging.
“This breakthrough product will allow the user to collect accurate, consistent measurements of crop conditions and upload them to a cloud environment for automatic data processing. The resulting maps will go far beyond basic vigor mapping and can be viewed in the field from a tablet device,” explains Stekkinger. “The partnership with VineView allows us to offer calibrated aerial imaging data, which is of much higher quality than anything on the market today.”
The system will become available in Europe, Canada and South America early next year; availability in the U.S. depends on FAA restrictions currently under review.