RELIABLE VINEYARD ANALYTICS: TURNING DATA into INFORMATION

Welcome to the fourth installment of our series on science and technology solutions for the viticulture industry!

The general theme of this week's post revolves around the fact that there is a very significant difference between information and data - though these terms are often used interchangeably. Data are simply raw numbers, while information is the end-result of research, processing, and testing. While many organizations in the marketplace collect and deliver data as a final product, at Hawk Aerial, we're in the business of delivering information to our clients.


As vineyard vigor and disease mapping are based on evolving science and technology, the creation of maps that confer accurate, useful information depends on:

  • deployment of highly specialized equipment;
  • skilled application of data capture techniques;
  • a history of perpetual investment in sound scientific research and experimentation.

This post will be a brief treatment of how analytical mapping must be executed in order to serve as an effective tool for the vineyard manager. 


There are nearly 300,000 species of flowering plants on our planet, all of which reflect slightly different ranges of solar energy wavelengths, depending on their genus, species, variety, and health status. Thus, vine foliage reflects very slightly different portions of the light spectrum than that of the potato plant, oak leaves, or blueberry bushes. The application of a general vegetation index to fields planted in any crop is a common practice in today's marketplace - yet this approach is far too broad to be of any real use to the vineyard manager


Accurate and usable wavelength reflectance data is best captured from a drone at no more than several hundred feet above ground. Capturing this data accurately from an airplane requires extremely sophisticated equipment, complex scheduling, and is reliant on favorable weather conditions.
Data captured from drones features higher ground resolution, is virtually free of distortion created by the diffractive effect of water vapor in the atmosphere, and features precise locational repeatability of image capture in subsequent missions. It also relates only to objects in the area of interest (read: vines), lessening the interference created by the abundance of color present in large field-of-view images. The benefits conferred by these factors include:

  • Vigor or disease data for each individual vine;
  • Much less need for corrective processing, which can degrade the raw data and thus decrease the reliability of the final product;
  • Eliminates potential effects of varying position and altitude during image capture while comparing different vigor or disease datasets over time


The reflectance data that is fundamental to accurate vigor and disease mapping in grapevines resides in very narrow, specific ranges, known as bands. The bands corresponding to normal vine health shift at different phenological stages, and even between varietals, in infinitesimal but very significant gradations.
Our research partners have isolated the various iterations of significant wavelength bands through the painstaking use of ultra-accurate hyperspectral imaging, coupled with exhaustive and rigorous research in California vineyards, over the past 15 years.

 


Once these highly specific ranges of wavelength reflectance data are collected and preprocessed, the process of algorithmic referencing and verification begins. This is made possible by use of our proprietary vitis vinifera health databases - storehouses of verified, ground-truthed vine health information. We've been compiling these deep databases through a decade and a half of research to date. We are continually joining new data to them as our research forges forward - driving their growth, and in turn, the evolution of our best-in-class service, which is getting smarter and more accurate every day.  


So there you have it - the other guys give you data. We give you information. 

METHODS of AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY in vineyard mapping

 

Hi! And welcome to the third installment in our four-part series unpacking the science and methods behind application of remote sensing techniques enabling important analytics to vineyard management!

This week, we'll zoom out from the specifics of camera technology to a discussion of the methods of image capture used to generate analytical vine-vigor and disease maps.

Aerial imaging has been applied to agriculture since at least the early 1960s, when spy-planes were used to estimate crop production behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War.

The areas of crop research, camera technology, imaging techniques, global positioning technology, and aeronautics have all undergone a quantum leap in the past five decades - bringing a whole new set of tools to the agricultural field. 

The most effective use of cameras to produce imagery of cultivated fields is to mount them to aircraft. Images captured from directly overhead at altitude (known as nadir photography) provide a real-time, map-like view of fields.
Images captured by this method also offer a much greater level of detail than satellite imagery - and their clarity suffers much less from distortion due to atmospheric effects and cloud cover.

With the advent of using airplanes to capture images of fields in crops, came the discipline of photogrammetry - the science of joining adjacent and overlapping photographs together to render mosaics, enabling the generation of expansive maps.

In the mosaicing process, images taken at different locations can be stitched together to form a larger image by matching features appearing in different frames.

In the mosaicing process, images taken at different locations can be stitched together to form a larger image by matching features appearing in different frames.

If you've ever taken a group picture, you are familiar with backing away from your subjects in order to increase the field of view, or FOV, allowing you to capture them all in the image. You've also noticed the further away you snap your photo, the less detail of your subjects your photograph captures.

The same concept applies to aerial photography; the higher up the camera, the more ground you capture, and the less detailed the photo. Thus, an airplane flying higher will capture a field or vineyard faster and in fewer pictures, but less details of the plants can be discerned.

Airplanes capture larger areas, faster, and with lower detail. Drones capture smaller areas, at greater detail, and operate in a slow and controlled fashion.

Airplanes capture larger areas, faster, and with lower detail. Drones capture smaller areas, at greater detail, and operate in a slow and controlled fashion.

As such, airplanes are a good choice for capturing very large areas and generating a coarse, but expansive dataset.

Inversely, remotely piloted drones, AKA unmanned aerial vehicles, which typically fly at 1/10 or lower of the altitude of manned aircraft, are a better choice for capturing smaller areas in crisp, high-resolution data. Drone-acquired imagery captured at an altitude of 350 feet can have over ten times the detail and resolution of that captured from manned aircraft flying at 3500 feet, even when the latter is using incredible, advanced 100-megapixel cameras. 

Although the quality of an aerial map can be judged on many parameters, the benchmark is ground-sampling distance, or GSD. This metric refers to the linear size of the area on the ground that is represented by one pixel - remember from last week's post that a pixel is the elemental component of a digital image - a square containing only one color value.
Thus, an image with a lower GSD features higher resolution, and vice-versa.

By way of example, if the GSD is three feet, that means all colors captured from a 9 square-foot area on the ground are represented by one pixel - a single square of one color, averaged from all the colors captured in that area.
If the GSD is six inches, then that same 9-square foot area is represented by 36 pixels - thus capturing much more detailed color information - and thus a much richer data input for analysis.

Two images of the same area in a vineyard. The image on top is was taken at low altitude using a 24-megapixel camera. It features low ground-sampling distance. The lower image was taken at ten times the altitude using a state of the art 100-megapixel camera, and features high ground-sampling distance.. For analysis of relatively small areas, the image at the top yields much more accurate information, for obvious reasons. 

Two images of the same area in a vineyard. The image on top is was taken at low altitude using a 24-megapixel camera. It features low ground-sampling distance. The lower image was taken at ten times the altitude using a state of the art 100-megapixel camera, and features high ground-sampling distance.. For analysis of relatively small areas, the image at the top yields much more accurate information, for obvious reasons. 

Imagery from manned flights are usually delivered on a set schedule - resulting from the aircraft performing regular imaging flyovers on a schedule that suits the imaging organization.
Mapping using drone-acquired imagery, on the other hand, can be arranged at any time suiting the end customer's needs - on very short notice, with a rapid turnaround time. 

Most drones performing precision agricultural imaging are of the rotorcraft variety - featuring four, six, or eight propellers providing lift - think of a miniature, multi-propeller helicopter.

A rotorcraft, or multi-copter type drone, in controlled flight.

A rotorcraft, or multi-copter type drone, in controlled flight.

This form factor provides extreme agility, slow, controlled flight (usually around 10 miles an hour) and the ability to hover. Thanks to extremely precise global positioning electronics, drones can create maps from images captured at exactly the same locations in your vineyard week after week, month after month, and year after year. This results in maps that are very consistent over time, recording spectral data from plant foliage under nearly identical conditions.
Manned aircraft, on the other hand, fly very high overhead at speeds usually in excess of a hundred miles an hour, making repeating image capture at precise locations challenging, and introducing considerable uncertainty related to speed, distance from the subject, and angle of spectral data reflected from plant foliage. 

A drone captures images within a very tight coordinate range in a repeatable fashion.

A drone captures images within a very tight coordinate range in a repeatable fashion.

Due to the high speed, high altitude, and the effect of crosswinds, an airplane has much less control over the exact location in which an image is captured.

Due to the high speed, high altitude, and the effect of crosswinds, an airplane has much less control over the exact location in which an image is captured.

When the goal is to create a very detailed map, the best approach is low, slow, and precise - best delivered by a remotely piloted drone fitted with a finely-tuned multispectral camera.

Stay tuned for next week's installment, where we bring together elements of all the posts to date for an unpacking of the unique and cutting-edge science and research that enables the delivery of our vigor and disease maps, which are the only maps on the market delivering reliable, actionable information.  

 

The Power of Multispectral Cameras

Hi! Welcome to the 2nd weekly installment in our four-part vineyard-oriented science and technology series! Last week we talked briefly about the electromagnetic spectrum. This week, we’ll narrow the focus a bit and discuss the use of imaging systems in viticulture, particularly with regard to multispectral cameras.

Infrared radiation, or IR, (discussed in the last email, and in greater detail in last week’s blog post), is generally sensed by us humans as radiant heat. The photosynthetic foliage of plants reflects IR in a direct and positive relationship to plant health and vigor, i.e., more active photosynthesis = more intense infrared reflection. We cannot see infrared with our eyes, but a camera’s sensor can detect it much as you and I detect visible light.

Infrared film was invented about a hundred years ago, but it took until the early 1970s to discover that IR reflectance from plants is a dynamic phenomenon containing actionable information. In the past 20 years, traditional photographic film has largely been replaced by the photodetector - silicon-based imaging sensors ubiquitous in the modern age - you more than likely have one on your person right now, in your smartphone camera. The photodetector makes infrared capture more practical - and opens up a world of possibility for its use in viticulture.

A multispectral camera works much the same way as a regular digital camera, with a few important differences.

In general, a regular digital camera has one sensor with three stacked layers – each sensitive to only red, green, or blue (RGB). This sensor is divided into pixels (a truncation of the words picture and element) which are the elemental unit of a digital image. Each pixel, when exposed to light, records digital numbers - an expression of the intensity of light each color-sensitive detects. Thus, each pixel in an RGB image has three values, for example, (150, 34, 231), corresponding to (red, green, blue).
 

A multispectral camera, however, normally features four (or more) separate sensors, each receptive only to energy within a given wavelength range. Hence, instead of three values, each sensor will only report one value per pixel when an image is captured. A typical setup is as follows: one sensor only picks up light in the red wavelength range, one in the green, one in the blue, and one in the infrared - yielding four separate images. This allows much more precise color segmentation.

During analysis of vegetation health, each of the four images are stacked on top of each other in GIS or photo-processing software. Here, the ratios between reflectance of the four different radiation wavelength ranges are determined, allowing the researcher to draw conclusions.

To be usable in viticulture, multispectral imagery must be captured and processed according to rigorous standards.

Firstly, access to a database of vine foliage reflectance ratios that are typical of photosynthetic vigor, water status, and disease symptoms, is fundamental.
Information gained from any given imaging session must be referenced to a sound dataset in order to produce a reliable vine-health map.

The second thing that is needed is the ability to focus on a very small portion of the spectral range in question, by using filters for each sensor that exclude wavelength ranges not relevant to the analysis.

Desired light wavelength ranges from foliage reflectance reaching the sensor ca be re installed on the lens to the right. 

Desired light wavelength ranges from foliage reflectance reaching the sensor ca be re installed on the lens to the right. 

To effectively record an accurate picture of your vine health, the camera's filters must be adjustable. The correct settings to capture exactly the light wavelengths required must be informed by data compiled by decades of meticulous research. Without the correct filter settings, a multispectral camera is geared towards general agriculture - an “overview” scope that does not have much relevance to the particularities of grapevines.

In conclusion, multispectral cameras are an incredibly powerful tool, but are not likely to deliver actionable results without:

- rigorous cross-referencing with databases of grapevine reflectance.
- filter settings calibrated to pick up relevant wavelength ranges.

Signing off for this week! Stay tuned - next week's post will unpack the ins and outs of aerial image capture techniques.

 

EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT THE ELECTROMAGNETIC SPECTRUM

... but were afraid to ask!

A generalized composition of our Sun's radiation.
The vast majority of the electromagnetic radiation emitted by our Sun is in the form of infrared, visible-light, and ultraviolet. Click diagram to expand.

Greetings! This is the first in a four-part series on the use of cutting-edge research, digital imaging technology, autonomous aeronautics,  geographic information systems, and positioning technology as a force-multiplier for the talents of the modern vineyard manager.

This week’s installment is a synopsis of the nature of the electromagnetic spectrum – a knowledge primer to use as a springboard to better understand the phenomena making reliable observation of plant health that beyond the capability of the unaided human eye a reality. 
 
Many vineyard management and other wine industry professionals have encountered references to the electromagnetic spectrum, or ES. 
Within the viticulture space, you may be aware of the use of specialized cameras to analyze light reflected off foliage to determine plant health. In winemaking, many of you are familiar with spectrophotometry, involving light of certain color ranges being shone through a sample of wine, indicating the presence and concentration of certain compounds.  
 
Both of these techniques make use of the electromagnetic spectrum’s interaction with matter that we want to study and gain insight into. Much like the microscope and telescope before them, multispectral cameras and spectrophotometers extend our ability to understand parts of our world that are invisible to the naked eye – creating a kind of extrasensory insight. 
 
The electromagnetic spectrum, as a topic of discussion, is infinitely complex. Minds no lesser than that of Albert Einstein's grappled with its finer points. However, this blog post will bypass any treatment of arcane particle physics – instead focusing on the practical dimensions of the subject.  
 
The electromagnetic spectrum is all around us - without it, life as we know it could not exist; to wit, the plants at the base of the food chain rely directly on the ES as the energy source for photosynthesis. 
Electromagnetic radiation is generated by stars like our sun, yet we also create it with our technology – radio stations, toasters, light bulbs, X-ray machines, and the detonation of atomic bombs all emit electromagnetic waves that are part of the ES. Even our bodies contribute, in the form of radiant heat. 
 
Electromagnetic radiation takes the form of a continuous stream of tiny, energy-containing particles called photons, that move at the speed of light. These photons oscillate, or move up and down vertically, along their horizontal path. This results in the stream of photons developing a wave pattern. The more energy these photons contain, the more rapid their oscillation, resulting in greater frequency and a shorter wavelength.   Here is a useful simplification, in the form of a pseudo-equation:

Higher Frequency = Shorter Wavelength = More Energy.

The portions of the electromagnetic spectrum are classified by wavelength – with very long waves used in radio communications, mid-length waves to run our microwave ovens and infrared heaters, and very short waves running our CAT-scan machines. 
 
What does this all have to do with the vineyard, you ask? Lots! But first, we must put the vineyard in context. All portions of the ES are either helpful or harmful to life on earth, but the most fundamental portion of the spectrum to life as we know it is a tiny slice in the range with wavelengths between ½ millimeter and 1 / 2,500th of a millimeter. Not all of this range is visible to the human eye, which has evolved to detect only a “Goldilocks zone” of wavelengths carrying an amount of energy that is “just right”. We perceive this range of wavelengths as the familiar ROYGBIV color spectrum – also known as visible light. We have evolved to perceive this range of electromagnetic radiation due to the heat of the surface of our Sun - about 9,980 degrees Fahrenheit - that emits 95% of radiation that strikes the surface of the earth in wavelengths that we see as visible light, and feel as infrared radiation. 
Infrared radiation, which occupies the ½ millimeter to 7/10,000th of a millimeter range, is sometimes referred to as “light”. This is technically incorrect, as it is invisible to our eyesight (see diagram) - we sense this wavelength range as radiant heat. 
 
So, on to the vineyard! The photosynthetic foliage of plants has selectively evolved pigments that absorb wavelengths of solar energy in the range we perceive as red and blue, due to their greater suitability for driving the photosynthetic process - and reflect the energy waves of lengths we perceive as green. These reflected “green-length” waves make their way to our eyes and

 
 A generalization of photosynthetic foliage's interaction with solar electromagnetic radiation. Wavelengths in the violet, blue, orange, and red ranges are strongly absorbed by pigments in plant tissue, where they are a fundamental innput to photosynthesis, flowering, and leaf orientation. Wavelengths in the green, yellow, and infrared ranges is reflected and/or transmitted, thus detectable to sensors such as a multispectral camera (or the human eye, in the case of green and yellow only.)

 A generalization of photosynthetic foliage's interaction with solar electromagnetic radiation.
Wavelengths in the violet, blueorange, and red ranges are strongly absorbed by pigments in plant tissue, where they are a fundamental innput to photosynthesis, flowering, and leaf orientation.
Wavelengths in the greenyellow, and infrared ranges is reflected and/or transmitted, thus detectable to sensors such as a multispectral camera (or the human eye, in the case of green and yellow only.)

cause us to perceive the familiar color of healthy foliage.  
Infrared radiation that is carried by waves just longer than that of red light – yet not short enough to be visible -  are known as near-infrared. Like green-length waves, they are not absorbed by any pigments present in plant foliage, so they are reflected or transmitted (pass through the mesophyll cells to the ground below). The healthier, more turgid, and denser the plant foliage, the greater the proportion of near-infrared radiation that is reflected rather than transmitted. Thus, to the observer above the plant (read: us) reflection of more infrared and green, and less red and yellow, morereflected indicates more vigorous foliage.  
 
But there are two problems here. The first is obvious: our eyes cannot detect this near-infrared radiation. The second is more complex: what is the reference point constituting strong or weak reflectance? Fortunately, scientific research and technological advancement has been directed at these problems over the past century or so, and we are currently refining and researching the discoveries advanced by full-spectrum photography to drive incredible insights into plant health.  

A general depiction of how photosynthetic foliage interacts with wavelengths in the red, yellow, green, and infrared ranges. - A - Foliage of plants under stress transmits more IR, reflects less green & IR and more red & yellow. - B - Under relatively balanced stress conditions, foliage absorbs red, reflects green, transmits less and reflects more IR, and transmits most yellow. - C - Under healthy, vigorous conditions, foliage strongly absorbs red, and strongly reflects green and IR. Yellow is almost completely transmitted .

A general depiction of how photosynthetic foliage interacts with wavelengths in the red, yellow, green, and infrared ranges.
- A - Foliage of plants under stress transmits more IR, reflects less green & IR and more red & yellow.
- B - Under relatively balanced stress conditions, foliage absorbs redreflects green, transmits less and reflects more IR, and transmits most yellow.
- C - Under healthy, vigorous conditions, foliage strongly absorbs red, and strongly reflects green and IR. Yellow is almost completely transmitted .

The first problem began to be solved sometime in the first half of the 20th century with the development of film sensitive to infrared radiation. The second problem involves the development of algorithms. Healthy plants of a given species will reflect green light in a very tight and predicable wavelength range – visible in the very homogenous green color of a vineyard, for example. As a plant’s health deteriorates, the range of wavelengths reflected by its foliage begins to shift from green to yellow – a familiar sight. In addition, the red light that would be absorbed by the plant under healthy conditions begins to be reflected. This is the cause of the familiar yellow/brown appearance of an unhealthy plant.  But before this becomes visible to the human eye, the level of reflectance of infrared radiation begins to drop. Thus the relationship between infrared, red, and green reflectance can be expressed as a ratio. Changes in this ratio are a signal that serves as a very reliable early warning to changes in plant health before they become visible. 
 
Stay tuned for next week’s installment – how specialized multispectral cameras can be put to use in reliably recording this change in ratio!         

2016/17 Record Rainfall - PRIMED for vigor

A common sight in early 2017. Finally. Napa County, April 12th, 2017.

A common sight in early 2017. Finally. Napa County, April 12th, 2017.

WITH measurements starting October 1, 2016, the 2016/17 winter rains have been characterized by some gangbusters events. As reported by the LA Times, a 122-year precipitation record has just been set in the northern Sierra - edging out the 1982-83 season - and the breaking of more records appears imminent in other areas of the state with a wet beginning to this week.
 
As per usual, the rainfall totals have resembled a crazy-quilt up and down the West Coast. Sonoma and Napa Counties (Map 1) , western SLO (Map 2), and Santa Cruz / Monterey (Map 3), took it on the head - with totals exceeding 200 and even 300% of their long-term precipitation averages.

Map 1: SF and the North Bay.

Map 1: SF and the North Bay.

Map 2: SLO, Santa Barbara, and southern Monterey Counties.

Map 2: SLO, Santa Barbara, and southern Monterey Counties.

Map 3: Santa Cruz and northern Monterey Counties.

Map 3: Santa Cruz and northern Monterey Counties.

Meanwhile, the Pacific Northwest had a healthy rain year (Map 4), with much of the region receiving 110 to 130%+ of the normal amounts, and Santa Barbara County experiencing a relatively normal precipitation year (Map 2). All maps courtesy of the California-Nevada and Northwest River Forecast Centers.

Map 4: The Pacific Northwest.

Map 4: The Pacific Northwest.

The soggy season saw a lot of growers delaying pruning until conditions grew sufficiently dry to avoid encouraging the spread of disease, only to face the challenges involved in getting pruning crews into flooded blocks. Fortunately, many of the precipitation events of the season were short and intense, often allowing standing water to drain off in a matter of days.

This year's bud-break has occurred at a relatively "normal" time in many growing regions, at least compared to the last few drought years, and vineyard managers are anticipating the likely effects on the grapes going into the 2017 vintage.

Vineyard blocks featuring efficient drainage are expected to undergo a rapid but relatively straightforward start, with general tendency toward abundant water availability in the root zone, improved soil structure, and lowered salinity levels thanks to the flushing of drought-affected soils. To maintain vine balance and promote timely cluster ripening, a close eye will have to be trained on the canopy, which is likely to display heightened vigor.

For vineyard blocks that experienced extended periods of standing water this winter, there are added considerations. Whether the pooling was caused by large amounts of runoff from higher blocks nearby or clay soils contributing to poor drainage, vines in these areas may show marked variations in vigor as the growing season gets underway.

In poorly drained soils, though the vineyard floor appears dry, supersaturated conditions may still exist in the root zone. In this case, vines can exhibit signs of "spring sickness" or "wet feet" caused by hypoxic conditions in the soil environment. When these conditions are short-lived, the effect on the vine is rarely fatal, but partial root death may slow early-season growth.

Some of these areas may actually see an increase in salinity, as the water that was pooled there likely contained high concentrations of salts leached from other, better-drained areas.

Increased salinity can also come from below, particularly where perched groundwater is present. Rising water tables can dissolve salts built up through irrigation in dry years and deposit them higher up in the soil profile as water levels recede, possibly in the root zone.

Under both hypoxic and saline soil conditions, the vines' ability to regulate sodium and chloride ion concentrations in their roots is decreased; interfering with the normal uptake of essential nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and calcium.

Thus, some vineyard blocks that were partially affected by flooding in the past months may exhibit higher variation in vigor than has been seen in recent years, potentially bringing added complication to the all-important task of canopy management.

Hawk Aerial provides highly accurate vigor mapping by collecting data on the proportion of specific wavelengths of light reflected by vine foliage - which differs significantly with the intensity of photosynthesis occurring in the plant at the time of image capture. We then use this information to create maps displaying explicit visual differences between areas of high vigor and areas of low vigor - a very rapid way to gather crucial information informing canopy management strategy.

In contrast to the vast majority of NDVI-derived maps on the market today, our data products undergo processing that removes interference generated by ambient light quality and reflectance from cover crop and other non-vine vegetation - showing you the vigor levels of your vines, period. Vigor mapping not only gives your vineyard management professionals a roadmap from which to start in their short-term planning, but also creates a record over time that can shed light on areas of the vineyard featuring chronically high or low vigor. This can drive decisions on more involved intervention, such as soil amendment, installation of drainage infrastructure, et cetera. 

Our Calibrated Enhanced Vegetation Index (CEVI) package provides growers and vineyard managers with three ultra-high-resolution, scale-accurate, georeferenced maps per imaging mission, details of which can be found by clicking the buttons below. Contact us to book an imaging mission today, and get a head start on your canopy management planning!

     

Hawk Aerial's analytical map benefits featured in The Grapevine magazine

Citing Hawk Aerial CEO Kevin Gould, The Grapevine magazine notes "new developments in vineyard map technology have helped eliminate inaccuracies that existed in older methods."  The article goes on to explain the importance of switching from NDVI to EVI (Enhanced Vegetation Index) maps, and discusses the technology advantages of using drones over airplanes or satellites.  Read the full article by clicking HERE.

Hawk Aerial CEO featured in Rotor & Wing International

Hawk Aerial CEO Kevin Gould was interviewed in the February edition of Rotor & Wing International.  In an article entitled "What Makes a High-Quality Drone Service Provider?", Gould offered advice to customers of commercial drone flight services.  An aviation background, specialization in the specific vertical market and commercial-grade equipment are all favorable factors.  Read the entire article at http://www.rotorandwing.com/2017/02/02/what-makes-high-quality-drone-service-provider/.  

Hawk Aerial Exhibits at ROOTSTOCK in Napa Valley

On November 8, Hawk Aerial, VineView Imaging and SkySquirrel Technologies introduced their drone-based products and services to the vineyard industry at Napa Valley's annual ROOTSTOCK trade show.  Rolling out their Aqweo UAV and Quanta vineyard-specific multispectral camera, the team provided interested visitors detailed information on aerial data acquired by the drone system which is processed into valuable map products.  For years, leading vineyard operators have been using VineView's proprietary Calibrated Enhanced Vegetation Index and Leafroll Disease maps to significantly improve crop yields and grape quality.  Now those maps are available via drone technology, providing significantly higher resolution and on schedules that best fit the customers' needs.

Hawk Aerial offers drone flight services, where its pilots fly its Aqweo/Quanta drone systems so the customer simply receives the Calibrated EVI and disease maps they need.  Or customers can purchase an Aqweo/Quanta system from Hawk Aerial and operate it themselves.  In that case, Hawk Aerial provides full training and support on this industry-leading system.

Drones Take to the Skies Over Napa Valley Vineyards

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Drones Take to the Skies Over Napa Valley Vineyards

Napa, California, October 29, 2016 – “VineView” Scientific Aerial Imaging has formed a strategic partnership with Hawk Aerial and SkySquirrel Technologies to bring drone technology to the vineyard management industry. 

SkySquirrel Technologies manufactures the Aqweo drone and Quanta camera system designed specifically to acquire multispectral data from wine-grape growing operations. 

Hawk Aerial markets and sells the Aqweo and Quanta drone systems, and also provides contracted drone flight services (using Hawk Aerial’s pilots and drones) for those customers who choose not to own and operate their own drones, but want the benefits that aerial imaging can provide. 

All images are processed by VineView Imaging, the leading provider of aerial imaging in the Napa Valley.  After processing the data, they create and deliver actionable reports, in the form of scientifically calibrated images and maps, so vineyard management can make informed operational decisions to increase their grapes’ quality, as well as their business revenue and profits.

 

Drone-based imaging offers several advantages over previous technology.   Drones are able to fly closer to the ground, allowing for greater accuracy and higher image resolution.  They also allow customers to obtain aerial data on demand, according to their own schedules.  Drones are currently considered most efficient for imaging small- to medium-sized properties.

The use of aerial imaging services benefits vineyard management by providing critical, actionable information on vine stress, vigor, and disease.  Studies show that aerial imaging has the potential to increase vineyard revenue by up to $10,000 per acre per year while decreasing operational costs, if the data is used appropriately.

Drones are available immediately for purchase or contracted flight service, and wide-spread use is expected in the Napa Valley and other wine-grape growing regions during this coming season. 

http://www.vineview.com/

http://hawkaerial.com/

http://www.skysquirrel.ca/

Hawk Aerial provides Drone training for Communi-cate, Inc. team in Virginia Beach

Hawk Aerial packed up their training drones and headed out to Virginia Beach to train the consulting firm Communi-cate, Inc.  The team was able to get enough learning and practice of flying drones even with the windy and cold conditions.  Luckily, we held the ground school indoors!

"Communi-cate, Inc. hired Hawk Aerial to deliver three days of intense sUAV training to our team of pilots during a company offsite meeting in 2016.  Phillip customized the content to be at the right level for manned vehicle pilots, hitting the mark on exactly what we needed to know from drone basics to airspace nuances and COAs.  Thumbs up!" - Cate McCoy, President.

Jamaica Public Service Power Company Receives UAS Flight Training

Jamaica Public Service completes UAS Training.

Jamaica Public Service completes UAS Training.

Hawk Aerial enthusiastically set off abroad recently to teach and certify the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) Power Company in how to safely fly, maintain and utilize small Unmanned Aerial Systems for crucial power line inspection.  A representative from the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA) also participated in the training.

Hands-on commercial drone training in Jamaica. 

Hands-on commercial drone training in Jamaica. 

The multiple day excursion included classroom, group flight instruction, written test and one-on-one flight testing that culminated in completion of our UAS Training Course.   JPS will confidently use its small UAS training to equip its power line inspectors with Hawk Aerial provided drone systems to more quickly, efficiently and safely maintain its country's power grid.

Image from a power line inspection via drone system. 

Image from a power line inspection via drone system. 

For those interested, we offer flexible UAS Training Course curriculum which includes:

  • UAS airframes and components overview
  • FAA Airspace definitions, regulations and operations within Class G airspace
  • Procedures for pre-flight, post-flight, safety and maintenance of UAS, LiPo batteries and ancillary equipment
  • Flight training and actual flying time for all students
  • Specific training for your application, including Ground Control station mission planning and execution
  • Certificate of completion from Hawk Aerial evaluated through a written and flight testing procedure

Service-Drone Skycrane Lifts 17lbs of Brick [w/video]

The Service-Drone Multirotor G4 Skycrane V2 octocopter is the German manufacturers top-of-the-line, heavy-duty lifter. From the factory this model lists a 14.4 lbs. max payload capacity. However, after experimenting with Skycrane load capacity, Hawk Aerial’s R&D team set out to find it’s true lift capabilities – manufacturer specs are many times lowered for safety reasons.

The test Service-Drone Skycrane was unmodified and powered by twin 5-cell, 8000 mAh, 18.5 volt LiPo batteries capable of a 150C discharge rate. In order to keep the test relevant to observers, we wanted to lift common, household items in the payload test. We selected a few standard red mason bricks weighing in at 5 lbs and 3 oz each plus the securing ratchet straps.

service drone skycrane brick lift

Initially, we secured two bricks to the airframe with high-tension lashing rope. On first  attempt, all assists were enabled including GPS position hold, compass directional hold, bank/acceleration limitations and barometric altitude hold. However, as we throttled up, the altitude hold system was not accustomed to the heavy payload. The system rapidly increased motor RPM to lift off the ground, cut power once airborne (roughly 1 foot above the ground) and didn’t account for how quickly the aircraft would drop, allowing it to just barely touch the ground before throttling up again. This produced a pogo effect before we manually shut the motors down completely. To counteract this effect, we turned the altitude hold assist off and reattempted flight. This time the Service-Drone Skycrane lifted the payload off the ground with ease and still felt very nimble in the air.

service drone brick lift side

Next, came a three brick payload, crossing the manufacture-recommended threshold. The three bricks and racketing strapping system securing the load to the airframe totaled just about 17 lbs. Just as before, we kept the altitude hold assistance system off and reattempted flight. Liftoff required quite a bit more throttle than in the previous test but the aircraft lifted off the ground very controllably.

service-drone skycrane brick lift

Once airborne with the motors running at roughly 60% power, the Skycrane was still VERY maneuverable. We conducted aggressive lateral direction changes and steep, banked turns at an altitude of roughly 20 feet above the ground (manually modulated). The aircraft was very nimble, smooth and showed no signs of stress nor interrupted flight. Our 5-minute continuous flight tests hauling this 17 lb payload drained the batteries down to just over 60% of their capacity. From this, we calculate a flight time of roughly 8 minutes with this extreme payload while keeping the battery level in a safe zone (above 40% of capacity).

Next up 20 lbs. Stay Tuned.