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Nelson company DroneMate launches the ultimate farming drone

Media release: Nelson company DroneMate launches the ultimate farming drone to New Zealand market

Nelson company DroneMate is launching a ground-breaking new agricultural farming drone into the New Zealand market that features a multi-application sensor developed by US company Sentera.

Marketed as DroneMate Agriculture, the product costs $5000 (approximately one third of the drone technology currently being used for much agricultural survey work) or $7000 for the deluxe model and is poised to revolutionise the way that aerial survey technology is used by farmers across a range of sectors, including dairy, horticulture, orcharding and viticulture.

The Sentera Single sensor is attached to a DJI Phantom Drone (the best-selling drone in the world) and allows farmers autonomous, easy, and immediate access to information about plant health, harvesting, and day-to-day activities on-farm.

The drone and sensor products are, essentially, “ready to go”. Within 2.5 hours of arriving via courier (during which time the product’s batteries are charged) the new owner can be flying the drone over their property, even if they’ve never flown a drone before. Once the drone lands, farmers can remove the memory card from the sensor, plug it into their laptop field-side, and immediately view plant health maps of their land or crops and very detailed photo images of the survey area.

Sentera’s near-infrared sensor contains its own computer. This onboard intelligence enables it to record images as required by the survey and means that it knows precisely where it is when it takes them. As a result, post-flight image processing is significantly easier than with other drone-based products.

The affordability and ease of use of the technology means that the operator can gather regular information about crop performance, and make changes to irrigation, fertiliser application, or pest control, for example, and then re-survey days later to see the results of those decisions.

“The technology could pay for itself in weeks if you factor in savings that could be made on fertiliser, irrigation and pesticides, which is great for the environment as well,” says DroneMate Agriculture Director Geoff Sherlock, “and all because farmers have really accurate and timely information at their fingertips for a price that makes good financial sense.”

“The technology offers the potential to boost yield because users have a clear and accurate picture of plant health on their property,” adds fellow DroneMate Agriculture Director John Bampfylde. “It can also provide a really accurate record of work that has been done on a particular day e.g. crop harvesting or stock activity, without relying on anecdotal reports from staff which, with the best will in the world, can sometimes be inaccurate.”

Previously, aerial surveying meant a farmer would have needed to hire a pilot with a much bigger drone rig at a much greater cost. “These kinds of drones are generally too large and complex to be operated by anyone other than a trained and experienced professional,” says Bampfylde. “With our new product the power of information really is in the farmer’s hands.”

DroneMate Agriculture drones come in a hardshell carrying case and include rechargeable batteries, a manual and back-end software to store and visualise the data.

“At this price point and because the technology is so easy to use, applications for the technology are endless,” says Sherlock. “In addition to plant health surveys, you could use it to find out whether the sheep are out of the paddock, whether there’s water in a water trough, or whether any gates have been left open - none of which you would consider doing at the price that aerial surveying or a helicopter would normally cost you – and all without having to walk anywhere or hop on your quad bike!”

DroneMate Agriculture is ideal for the vast majority of farms and can cover a 20-30ha area per battery charge.

“By 2050, the world’s farmers will need to feed nine billion people while using the same arable land that we have today,” says Greg Emerick, Executive Vice President of Business Development for Sentera. “To do this, growers around the globe are adopting precision agriculture technology, like Sentera’s drones, sensors and AgVault Software to grow more food, at a higher rate of return.

“This agreement with DroneMate provides Sentera with a broader and deeper reach to deliver world-class precision remote-sensing products to customers in New Zealand.”

Bampfylde and Sherlock are excited about what the technology will mean on-farm in New Zealand and Australia.

“Drone technologies are becoming much more affordable and much easier to use, so New Zealand is seeing more farmers incorporate precision agriculture in their standard operations,” observed Bampfylde. “Very soon, countless farmers and local aerial professionals will own an agricultural drone such as these, providing them with accurate, low-cost surveys as often as they want them. More knowledge about what’s happening in the fields means better decisions can be made. This in turn leads to an improved bottom line for farmers. This is one of the first drones in the world you buy to save money on the farm.”

Watch the video about DroneMate Agriculture’s innovative product here:

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