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Farm Survey Drone System Seeks Crowdfunding Support

StitchCam drone

StitchCam drone aircraft (PutDronesToWork.org)

21 July 2014. A system that combines an aerial drone with Android tablet and software designed to survey a grower’s crop fields is seeking crowdfunding contributors. The StitchCam system by San Diego start-up SNAP Vision Technologies LLC is the subject of a Kickstarter campaign, but needs to raise more than $92,000 of its $100,000 goal in the next 17 days, when the campaign ends.

StitchCam is the creation of Bill Robertson, a Stanford University design school graduate from an Iowa farm family, looking for a method for farmers to survey their crops, that offers more frequent and up-to-date reports than by walking through fields, and is less expensive than hiring a plane and pilot. Robertson says manned flights of vineyards in Napa Valley, for example, cost about $8 an acre.

The system uses a small, battery-powered quadcopter (four-rotor) drone aircraft that weighs less than four pounds. The body of the aircraft is made of aluminum and carbon fiber, with each rotor measuring 10 inches in diameter. The drone flies lower to the ground than manned aircraft and can maneuver around trees and other obstructions. Both take-off and landing are done autonomously by the drone.

The drone is designed to carry an imaging sensor, which Robertson says has a patent pending. The sensor captures high-resolution images and measures reflected light from the sun in the visible and near infrared spectra to gauge the vitality of the crops. StitchCam adapts open-source work by Public Lab to interpret these images for assessing the state of vegetation.

The system includes as well an Android tablet running software that processes data captured by the drone and uploads it to the cloud for processing. The software is built on the open-source DroidPlanner software for drone aircraft ground stations. Users program the drone’s flight plan, then store the plan in its memory, which the drone follows after take-off.

In addition to starting SNAP Vision Technologies to develop the technology, Robertson created an online community, putdronestowork.org, get public input on StitchCam and further applications of the system. Robertson expects the community will also provide training and a user forum.

Robertson began a Kickstarter campaign on 4 July and continues to 8 August 2014 that aims to raise $100,000. A contribution of $2,800 qualifies a donor for a StitchCam system before the growing season for soybeans corn, and grapes in the U.S. As of today (21 July), however, the campaign raised less than $8,000 with only 17 days remaining.

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