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Saturday 25 October 2014

Wine drone put to work in US

14th August, 2014 by Simon Howland

A US company has developed a drone capable of scaring away vineyard pests and collecting vital environmental data for winemakers, among a myriad of other uses set to benefit the wine industry.

The Lancaster Mark III

The Lancaster Mark III

Mention drones and the first thing people tend to think of are those used by the military in foreign countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

But drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s) are capable of other applications and the wine industry is beginning to take note, according optics and photonics industry site optics.org.

US company Precision Hawk has seen its UAV technology modified to resemble a hawk intended to scare away pest birds while collecting important data for winemakers on plant research, crop protection and crop production.

Precision Hawk’s latest model UAV, the Lancaster Mark III, is a small, fixed wing UAV weighing only 1.3kg which is completely autonomous and capable of collecting high resolution, remote sensing data.

At less than a meter from nose to tail, the UAV is completely silent and automatically computes its own survey parameters and other pre-designated information such as identifying disease and insects, uncovering nutrient deficiencies and comparing crop genetics to enable increased yields with fewer resources.

“Once the survey is complete, the on-board computers will automatically connect to Wi-Fi networks and transfer all remote-sensing data, flight information and diagnostics to remote servers,” says Ernest Earon, founder and president of Precision Hawk.

According to Earon, Lancaster Mark III is widely used in plant-health measurement, water quality assessment, vegetation index calculation as well as mineral and surface composition surveys.

Elsewhere in the US, California-based start-up 3D Robotics, is working with winemaker Small Vines Wines on an agriculture application covering crop-scouting, crop health and vigor, weed-identification, irrigation and water distribution.

One hotel has taken to delivering Champagne to its penthouse guests by drone, while a bar in Minnesota has been known to deliver cold beers by drone to fisherman out on the state’s frozen lakes.

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