Moran said that there are significant issues still to be resolved as the UAS industry takes off, including the sticky one of preserving privacy, but he sees far more potential benefit than downside. The economic benefits of job creation, economic growth and increased agricultural productivity are huge benefits, he said.
A system ready to fly
The day also featured the introduction of Bret Chilcott, founder of AgEagle at Neodesha, who has been working on UAS development with K-State and has an unmanned system going into production this month.
"I grew up on a farm and all my spare money went to flying lessons or model airplanes," he said. "I love flying model airplanes and I am also a private pilot. So, when I learned K-State was looking for help on this, I volunteered to work with them."
AgEagle is in the process of launching commercial production of its first product – a "flying wing" similar to the one demonstrated by K-State on Tuesday.
"The city of Neodesha helped me find a building suitable for manufacturing and I'm ready to go with production," he said. "And I am lucky that there are skilled workers in the Neodesha area looking for good jobs. Cobalt Boats is located here and they have reduced workforce over the last five years and many of those people are looking for work." He plans to initially employ about 25 workers, he said.
Chilcott says he has orders for eight systems and expects to make and sell about 150 before the end of this year. Planned production for 2014 is 1,200 units, he says, but he has the resources to rapidly ramp up production to meet demand.
The initial AgEagle system includes the fixed wing aircraft, which is battery operated and made of carbon fiber and foam, a launcher and a programmable auto-pilot system. It comes equipped with a camera modified to record near infrared images suitable for vegetative index analysis. The system includes software to make the images more understandable to the average user.
The software will "stitch" the photos and convert them into easy to understand color codes. Chilcott said he has been working with an Iowa-based software developer, AgPixel, to create a geo-coded map that can be loaded to and read by a variable rate applicator. That will be added to the package when it is ready, he said.