Inside Unmanned Systems

JUN-JUL 2019

Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.

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29 June/July 2019  www.insideunmannedsystems.com  unmanned systems inside end optical knowledge and preci- sion data to the agriculture sector. "People walking around fields look- ing with their eyes is, no kidding, a 10,000-year-old technique. Aerial measurement systems are so much more accurate, and can deliver in- formation that humans cannot." Approaching its business chal- lenge in terms of an engineering solution, Ritter's mini-skunk works' initial goal was to produce a proto- type system that would demonstrate a useful capability. They hit the li- brary, parsing academic articles to learn what was known about re- mote sensing. How plants absorb sunlight seemed to align with the team's electro-optic wheelhouse. "If you can measure the photosynthetic activity within the plant, we could infer some things in the health con- dition," Ritter said. Development began on a sensor that, for lack of a better word back then, used a "chlo- rophyll meter." After developing a prototype, it was time to try it out. Michael Milton had extended family involved in grow- ing corn and soybeans, so the team visited Nebraska, looking for a field suitable for testing its sensors. As they installed the equipment on an off-the-shelf drone and took measure- ments, growers came by to eyeball an in-flight UAV. Ritter: "They were cu- rious. It took about a day or so to pro- duce the data. We got them together around a table; with pizza. We could detect low nitrogen, which indicated that the field needed fertilizer, and weed growth in a soybean field. " S u d d e n l y t h e i r d e m e a n o r changed. That group ended up pro- vided seed funding for our company." Today, SlantRange is "a ver y high-resolution system; one percent resolution," said Ritter. "It collects huge volumes of data that need to be processed quickly where you may not have a lot of equipment, without network connection or computing resources." In addition to the domes- tic market, this makes SlantRange useful and scalable in the developing world. "One customer, $4-5 billion a year, operates on five continents, in lots of tropical areas. A big reason they chose to go with us is our ability to process on location." FROM DEFENSE TO COMMERCIAL No technology was transferred di- rectly from the defense sphere, but expertise in aerial sensing certainly morphed into the civilian space. "In large part, what we were do- ing at General Atomics Aeronautical Systems carried over," Ritter said. "Putting a sensor on a robotic air- plane, learning so many rules of thumb about design, types of imaging chips, sourcing, how to put the data system autonomously. Aircraft oper- ating at a certain altitude in emerging conditions in the field—when given an intelligence challenge, our job was to create a sensor system to detect, 4P 4P+ Capability Spectral and spatial resolution with integrated sunlight calibration, RGB/ red/red-edge/IR, modular add-on capacity "Most advanced multispectral sensor in its class;" 2x the special resolution of the 4P Spectral Channels 6 6 Available Spectral Range 410-950 nm 410-950 nm GSD (ground sample distance) 4 c resolution at 100 m 2.2 c resolution at 100 m 160 Acre Survey @2.0 cm GSD, 12 m/s (rotary) 50 min 32 min 160 Acre Survey @120 cm AGL (above ground level), 20 m/s (fi xed) 16 min 18 min 160 Acre Survey @120 m AGL, 12 m/s (rotary) 22 min 24 min Precision Navigation Module Available; dual-antenna RTK GPS; LiDAR rangefi nder Available; dual antenna RTK GPS; LiDAR rangefi nder measure Removable SD Card Storage 64 GB (4 hrs) 64 GB (2 hrs) Weight 350 g 350 g Power 12 W @ 9.0 – 28.0 VDC 14 W @ 9.0 – 28.0 VDC Project Watch PROJECT WATCH Innovative Worldwide UAS Use HARDWARE HIGHLIGHT SlantRange Multispectral Measurement Systems DEFENSE COMMERCIAL NEXUS

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