Jamie Gray is a business reporter for the NZ Herald

Drone promises to be farmers' eye in the sky

A New Zealand company has developed technology that promises to deliver real-time data from the sky to give farmers an accurate idea of how much feed they have on their properties.

The company - Haptly - has come up with a prototype drone that promises to deliver farm data analysis and real-time images direct to the "cloud" so that farmers can access the info on their smartphones, tablets and personal computers to manage and monitor their farms from anywhere, at any time.

Haptly co-founders Rab Heath and Nelson Shaw said they had developed drone tracking technology to enable autonomous and beyond-line-of-site applications for the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) industry.

The technology can be used for pasture monitoring to keep a close eye on irrigation, weed management and dry-matter needs remotely.

Haptly's technology is a cloud-based, real time, UAS tracking and management platform, for low altitude commercial drone applications.

Heath said it is delivered through a combination of software and hardware, that integrates inertial navigation systems, along with readily available technology such as GPS, increased 3G/4G coverage and more recently developed "sense and avoid" technology.

"Essentially we are making technology that enables a farmer to press a button to launch the drone, which then surveys the farm and its available the pasture - uploads that information onto online software, and provides insights through analysis of the information," he told the Herald at Fieldays.

"The quality and quantity of grass on a farm relates to how much milk or meat the farm can produce and how much money the farmer can make," he said.

Heath said the technology can determine how much grass livestdock is consuming per day, on average, so that the farmer can determine where the best paddocks are and how much feed they contain," he said.

Vodafone has provided the network and technical support for the project, through its Smart Farm scheme.

Heath said he expected the product be available on the market by next year.

- NZ Herald

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