Low cost UAVs help farmers

A low cost unmanned mico air vehicle has been monitoring erosion in Spain to help farmers.

The German startup, MAVinci has developed a system which uses satnav guided UAVs with a wingspan of less than 2m to inspect land areas.

"At the moment, the remote-sensing market uses mainly manned aeroplanes, but they are expensive and not always available," Johanna Born, ceo of MAVinci explained. "Our MAVs are cost-efficient, available at short notice and easy to use for surveillance of development areas, construction sites, disaster zones and waste disposal sites, just to mention a few. They can carry visual and thermal cameras or other customer-specific measuring equipment."

MAVinci is hosted by ESA's Technology Transfer Programme Office at the Business Incubation Centre in Darmstadt, Germany. Here, ESA engineers provide expertise on attitude-determination algorithms and exploiting satnav data. ESA's optical lab at ESTEC in the Netherlands helps MAVinci with the calibration of their optical camera.

The autopilot controls the aircraft from takeoff to landing, and uses satnav to follow a planned track, triggering the camera to image the target area. From the ground, the plane is followed by radio by a safety pilot who can take over the controls at anytime.

Last October, one of MAVinci's micro-aircraft imaged several of the many erosion canyons in Andalusia to improve understanding of the dynamics of erosion and to find solutions for local farmers.

Tom Shelley

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