Based in Bet-Dagan, Israel, the Agricultural Research Organization (ARO) is comprised of six institutes that are responsible for plant sciences; animal science; plant protection, soil, water, and environmental engineering; agricultural engineering; and postharvest and food sciences. ARO also operates four research stations around the country, and serves as a testing center for agricultural produce and equipment.
In order to perform agricultural research tasks including hydric stress, disease detection, and soil nutrients optimization, ARO purchased two SNIPER UAVs from Alpha Unmanned Systems. SNIPER is a 5.5 x 1.9 ft. helicopter two-stroke gasoline piston engine helicopter UAV that reaches speeds of nearly 35 mph for up to 2 hours at a time. To accomplish the task of monitoring the crops, a FLIR SC-655 infrared camera was installed on each of the UAVs.
The FLIR SC-655 features a 640 x 480 uncooled microbolometer LWIR focal plane array with a 17 µm pixel size that acquires full frame 16-bit data at speeds of up to 50 fps. The camera, which is GigE Vision and GenICam compliant, also features focal plane array windowing for high-speed 200 Hz imaging. With this infrared camera, each drone can capture images in the 7.5 – 14 µm spectral range. Also on board the SNIPER UAV is an on-board processing computer.
Once the UAVs were delivered and accepted by the Israeli authority, Alpha Unmanned Systems provided a training program in Madrid, Spain for two ARO pilots and two pilots recognized by the Israel Civil Aviation Authority (ICAA), so they can mentor new pilots in their regions. Following the training, Alpha traveled to Tel-Aviv, Israel to complete the acceptance test procedure (ATP) and to perform the first flight tests required to achieve certification with the ICAA. Both flights and tests were successful and met ATP and ICAA requirements.
Each SNIPER unit can carry up more than 5.5 lbs in payload, and will support ARO in their precision agriculture research.
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