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  • Drone-Based Imaging Improves Agricultural Practices

Photonics.com
Jul 2016
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., July 29, 2016 — Aerial Agriculture LLC, a startup company launched by Purdue University students, aims to revolutionize the agricultural industry by building drones to capture multispectral images of entire crop fields.

"Our technology can pinpoint crop areas that need more attention, which allows farmers to then apply more inputs and address potential crop issues immediately, as opposed to after the fact," said Austin Deardorff, co-founder of Aerial Engineering and a student at Purdue. "We expect our clients to get a full return on their investment, if not make money from using our service."

Aerial Agriculture LLC, a tech startup founded by undergraduate students in Purdue's College of Engineering, developed and piloted agricultural drones that can capture specialized images of entire crop fields.
Aerial Agriculture LLC, a tech startup founded by undergraduate students in Purdue's College of Engineering, developed and piloted agricultural drones that can capture specialized images of entire crop fields. The drones' captured images can be stitched together into maps, which are direct representations of the crops' health. The technology ultimately reduces input costs and increases farmers' yields. Courtesy of Aerial Agriculture.

Aerial Agriculture uses specialized cameras to convert images into valuable vegetation indices that represent crop health and allow agronomists to determine the amount of nitrogen and fertilizer that needs to be applied in specific locations throughout the field.

"Our drones make it so we are able to stitch images together in maps to show the crops' health in a precise and easy-to-read manner,” Deardorff said. “Our products and services also increase environmental sustainability because we are implementing autonomous technology and use less harmful inputs. We want to become the only agriculture drone service company in Indiana and begin expanding to multiple states with longer growing seasons."

Deardorff and his team have recently upgraded their camera and can now collect four different spectral bands with extremely precise data. Other members of the startup include Justin Kinney, Tyler Landers, Justin Sutcliff, Taylor Wetli, Angelo DeFlora, Suzanne Bagnoli and Paul Pratt, all undergraduate engineering students.

"Justin brought up the topic of drones being used in agriculture and how expensive this process can be," Deardorff said. "Tyler mentioned that he has been building drones since eighth grade and can make them much cheaper, get them to fly longer and can equip them to take better images. From there, we began product development, and here we are now."

Aerial Agriculture has received funding through various sources at the Purdue Foundry, an entrepreneurship and commercialization accelerator. The team took first place at Purdue's Boiler Mini-Accelerator Competition earlier this year.


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