MID WEST farmers and resource managers are set to reap the benefits of the latest technology that pairs computer programming with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
Geraldton resident Warren Abrams founded the company New Era Ag-Tech, 18 months ago with the idea of using aerial imagery to map agricultural areas.
Primarily he wanted to look at crop nutrition, soils, weeds, diseases and what kind of imagery would be helpful for farmers.
After catching up with friend Richard Riddle, who was writing imaging programs for the resource industry in South Africa, Mr Abrams realised that one of his programs could be the answer.
Mr Riddle of Data Into Profit, had a unique program called âCrop Managerâ, that was able to take data from different formats and bring them into one model.
To begin the pair looked at using satellite imagery but this was limiting, and thatâs when UAVs came up.
New Era Ag-Tech uses hexa and octo split-blade aerial platforms that have the computer processing power of multi-rotor helicopters and a tested range of 14km.
To comply with Civil Aviation Safety Authority certification, UAVâs must be flown under 400 feet to stay away from civil aviation but the machines have the capability of reaching extreme heights.
The cameras used must be small and lightweight.
âWe are using a âGoProâ camera and we have a multi-spectra camera which doesnât give photographic images but more like colour patterns,â Mr Abrams says.
âWe are also waiting on a gimbal this week for a canon digital camera that will take the images to a whole new level.â
The technology has potential beyond farming with New Era Ag-Tech recently demonstrating their capabilities to the Northern Agricultural Catchment Council (NACC).
NACCâs Dr Michael Payne says they are looking at using the UAVâs in different resource management projects.
âThe first of these is likely to be on a âwrackâ [seaweed] monitoring project in a joint project with Edith Cowan University. We also have some interest in using them for monitoring coastal erosion and also in weed mapping,â he says.
The chief pilot for New Era Ag-Tech is Mr Abramsâ daughter, 19-year-old Coraleigh Abrams followed by Jordan Smith, also 19, who has just completed training. Warren can also fly but admits heâll never be able to manipulate the controls as well as a younger person.
Such keen interest has been shown in UAV technology that New Era Ag-Tech has now connected with the Morawa School of Agriculture to run a unit in 2014.