Nova Scotia

Annapolis Valley company using remote aircraft, drones to help farmers

An Annapolis Valley company is hoping the sky won't be the limit with their new aerial technology business that aims to help spot poor growing areas in their fields.

Remote aircraft climb to 90 metres; outfitted with a camera and other features

John Frost of Aerhyve Aerial Technologies holds the two remote aircraft his company is using to help pinpoint problem growing areas for farmers. (CBC)

An Annapolis Valley company is hoping the sky won't be the limit with their new aerial technology business.

Aerhyve Aerial Technologies is using remote aircraft and custom software to try and pinpoint poor growing areas in farm fields.

On Thursday, John Frost launched one of Aerhyve's fixed-wing aircraft over a blueberry field in Rawdon.

The plane climbs to 90 metres and is outfitted with a camera and other features. As it flies over the 40 hectares of blueberries, it is constantly clicking images.

Frost and his team takes those images to identify areas that are poor for growing.

"We're looking at some pathologies and one of them is bare ground — these naturally patchy areas in wild blueberries," he said.

"So we're trying to identify them with geo-precision so you can potentially reduce them where possible."

Frost also has a drone that is used for the same purpose. The aircraft have programmed flight plans so the entire flight is automated.

Could save farmers money

Frost's team keeps an eye on a laptop to make sure everything is working properly and a hand-operated remote control on standby in case there is a problem.

He says the aerial technology could save big money for blueberry producers and other vegetable growers in the agricultural community.

"It's that reduction of chemical loads where we can target applications of herbicides, pesticides, insecticides, instead of blanket spraying and also better resource allocation when it comes to fertilizer, water and so on," he said.

Aerhyve recently signed a partnership with Precision Hawk, an American drone manufacturer.

"Their aircraft is very sophisticated. It has artificial intelligence in the air to calculate proper flight patterns and so on," Frost said.

"They're virtually autonomous — they fly themselves, they land themselves."

Frost says his company is working on other avenues where these aircraft can be used, including spraying.

He says the drones would not only fly out to detect the problem areas but also deal with it, all in the same flight.

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