London ON – A new Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) designed and built in Ontario specifically for agricultural uses has been launched on the market.
A&L Canada Laboratories of London, Ontario has developed and equipped the first-of-its kind drone with the sensors, equipment, and software that will let farmers easily collect and interpret valuable data that will help them make good crop and business management decisions.
“We have built a plane that is a full solution – easy to fly, affordable, and with reliable software that works seamlessly,” explains Greg Patterson, Certified Crop Advisor and President of A&L Canada Laboratories. “We can have data from a plane onto a tablet on the edge of the field in 10 minutes.” The company has also developed a multispectral sensor that can fit either into the UAV it has developed or can be retrofitted into other drones.
A&L’s multispectral sensor picks up more bandwidths of light than the currently used infrared sensors, enabling farmers to collect and extract more data – data that can be used to determine crop yields, identify nutritional disorders in plants, or detect the presence of disease in a field.
“We’re about selling a technology that is useful to farmers in gathering crop production data, offering a solution that is practical and easy for anyone to use,” says Patterson. “Not only does our technology collect data, but we also offer the agronomy support for interpreting that data, which no one else in the industry currently does.”
Drone technology has been growing in popularity in North America in recent years for both recreational and businesses. Agriculture with its large cropland areas is particularly emerging as an industry the technology can have beneficial applications.
A report by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International predicts commercial drones will create more than $80 billion USD in economic impact over the next decade, and that precision agriculture will be responsible for the biggest portion of that growth.
A&L Canada began experimenting with UAV technology in 2009, but challenges linked to finding suitable equipment and reliable software convinced the company to design their own system from the ground up with the needs of their agricultural client base in mind.
The beta version of the UAV was on display at Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show in Woodstock last September and A&L has been taking orders for spring 2016 delivery of the units. A&L is also planning to offer customized data collection services using UAVs.
The technology will be marketed by Aero Insights Inc., a division of A&L Canada Laboratories. A&L Canada was formed in 1985 and is Canada’s largest agricultural and environmental laboratory specializing in soil, plant tissue, fertilizer and water testing.
Photography for AgInnovation Ontario by Martin Schwalbe