By Charlie Brennan
BOULDER, Colo. (AP) – Two Boulder businesses are hoping to bring pioneering drone technology to the age-old business of farming – if only federal regulators will let them out of the barn.
InventWorks and Boulder Labs have developed a drone they believe could revolutionize the multi-billion dollar business of agriculture, by offering farmers precise location of weeds that require suppression far more efficiently than could be achieved by any other means.
To some they are known as unmanned aircraft systems, and to others they are autonomous aerial vehicles, but in headlines they are drones. And for many, anything with that label smacks of lethal military strikes or spying.
“In the area of drones, when people are horrified, it’s because they assume it’s only a military technology, and they say, ‘They should be illegal,”’ said Tom McKinnon, managing director of InventWorks. “But when you ask should they be available to help out in the search for a missing child, they say, ‘Oh, that’s a good idea.’ As long as the scary stuff is off the table, such as weaponizing drones, generally, the public is in favor of it.”
Jim Sears, head of new product development at Boulder Labs, added, “The fact that we’re in an agricultural application area takes away a lot of the concerns about privacy, which is what a lot of people have. This is not going to threaten people’s sense of privacy, and doing a precision drone strike on weeds sounds like a good thing.”
It’s not yet known what the two companies’ business model will look like once they can hang out a shingle and charge farmers for their service. Nor have they decided under what business name it will operate.
And, to be precise, they are not offering “drone strikes” on weeds. Instead, they are developing a 4-pound, 6- foot-wingspan drone equipped with multispectral cameras that can capture high-resolution, geo-tagged photographs every few seconds. Those images are then transferred to a ground-based computer where they are merged to create a continuous image of a large farming operation.1 2 3 next >>