Dropcopter has hired Shadowquad to build 5 hexacotpers for the project referenced in the article below. Systems were built with Pixhawk 2 with Mauch power management systems using Craft & Theory “Flight Deck” for Taranis Plus. The system uses visual and audible telemetry to give the pilot flight mission information. We are also providing piloting services coast to coast. Autonomous missions are flown to pollinate crop orchards.
By SUAS News
One third of all food crops worldwide rely on bee pollination. Unfortunately, natural bees like the Bumblebee, Carpenter bee, and Squash bee are now considered endangered or threatened species, due to colony collapse. In addition, US beekeepers have lost an estimated 45% of their operations to this rapidly spreading disorder, and no cure has been found.
At the same time, demand for pollination is growing rapidly. Crops such as almonds, cherries,apples, pistachios and many others have more than doubled their planted space in the last 10 years. California’s almond crop alone requires more than 75 percent of the entire US bee population to serve as pollinators during a very short two-week bloom season. If it rains or the temperature remains below 55 degrees, the bees won’t leave the hive and there’s nothing a grower can do. It’s also expensive to use bees. For a 500 acre orchard, it costs $200/per
beehive, and the industry standard of 2 beehives/acre, this is a $200,000 expense for the narrow two week pollination season.
Traditional crop pollination and supplements have remained somewhat of a dark art.
That’s where Dropcopter comes in. The company’s mission is to help address the global pollination crisis using drone aircraft to pollinate crops. Since 2015, Dropcopter has been testing automated drone pollination on almonds, cherries, pistachios and olives with positive results. Initial tests on almonds have demonstrated a beneficial increase in crop set by 15 percent, yielding a potential increase of hundreds of dollars per acre. “We want to deliver real data-driven value to the growers,” said Matt Koball,CEO of Dropcopter.
Dropcopter buys surplus pollen from specialty suppliers. Their drones spread that pollen right above the trees over opened flowers turned upward to the sun during optimum bloom time, using their patent-pending “Worker Bee” pollinator. Dropcopter also provides one benefit bee can’t match – nighttime operations. While bees do not fly during the night, the flowers of the trees stay receptive 24 hours. The use of
drones effectively doubles the pollination window. If rains wash away pollen, there’s twice the time to replenish it with drone dusting.
In 2018, Dropcopter was selected to participate in the Syracuse based “GENIUS NY” accelerator program, earning valuable recognition, as well as strategic, logistical and financial support. Over the next year, the program will continue to support Dropcopter’s growth by pairing the company with industry mentors and additional opportunities for VC funding.
The program also provides Dropcopter with the opportunity to test its operations beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS) in partnership with the NUAIR Alliance, which manages one of six FAA-designated UAS test sites in upstate New York. Current regulations require a Pilot in Command (PIC) or visual observer watching the automated flight path of the aircraft, limiting flight operations.
Dropcopter has been conducting limited operations by placing pilots at the top of pruning towers and scissor lifts. This tactic allows them a “farmers aircraft control” and an obstructed view but it’s far from ideal. They are planning daisy chain operations in New York state for the apple bloom season in May.
We are incredibly fortunate to be working with GENIUS NY and the NUAIR Alliance,” said Adam Fine, Dropcopter’s CTO. “With their help, we will demonstrate a safe and valuable use case to the FAA. Imagine what Dropcopter could do for agriculture with BVLOS and a night time waiver.”