UAS Magazine - Q4 2016

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Q4 2016

Commercial View Elbit Systems Of America's 1,000 pound UAV Enhances Precision Ag Page 14


Market Forecasts Reveal UAS Usage Trends Page 20


The Key To Countering UAVs Page 9

UPS Proves Drone Delivery Method Page 10

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A 1,000-pound unmanned aircraft system flying 8,000 feet above North Dakota’s Red River Valley reveals its potential to improve precision agriculture practices, the greater UAS industry and a path to commercialization for larger UAVs.

Projections of future UAS demand by the consumer, commercial or civil government sectors including exclusive insight from the team behind the Teal Group’s latest UAS study are highlighted.

Growing UAS Precision Agriculture

UAS Numbers of the Future By Luke Geiver

By Patrick C. Miller

ADVERTISER INDEX 28 Access Spectrum, LLC 19 Advanced Aircraft Company 26 Arizona UAS Summit & Expo 2016 26 Aviation Insurance Resources 17 Broadcast Microwave Services, Inc. 25 Cyclops Technologies, Inc. 5 Ethanol Producer Magazine 8 HITEC/Multiplex USA 18 Northwest UAV 2 RED Consultants, Inc. 27 The Bakken Magazine 26 UAV Propulsion Tech


Two Ways to Illustrate UAS Industry Growth By Luke Geiver


By UAS Magazine staff

Nordex, Lufthansa form wind energy, drone partnerships UPS unveils drone delivery capabilities Congress checks in on UAS industry after Part 107 Drone Advisory Committee announced by FAA

ON THE COVER: The Hermes 450 in flight above agriculture fields in North Dakota. PHOTO: ELBIT SYSTEMS OF AMERICA


EDITOR'S NOTE Two Ways To Illustrate UAS Industry Growth Imagery and data collected via unmanned aircraft vehicle may be the central element to the proliferation of commercially viable UAV operations, but sometimes it’s simply about the platform. On

a late-August morning, our team walked the grounds of a small airport in the heart of Red River Valley potato, grain and sugar beet country. We were there to watch a demonstration flight of a 1,000-pound, 34-foot fixed-wing UAV flown and operated from the airport. The flight was part of a larger effort by several parties Luke Geiver to showcase and explain how large UAVs can be used Editor, UAS Magazine to help precision-agriculture experts and farmers prove plant yields, field drainage and overall crop-based decisions. Before the dignitaries, CEOs, members of Congress, farmers and others arrived for the demo and ensuing discussion of the precision-ag and large UAV project, we captured a compelling photo of the fixed-wing UAV used in the precision-ag flights. A freshly mowed grass section between the airplane hangars and the main runway provided an area for the airport’s assets to be put on display. On the grass, several small manned planes were parked in a long row. Behind the row of manned planes, the late morning sun was just rising over the tops of several massive grain bins at a nearby grain elevator seen on the horizon. Parked at the far end of the planes was a gray Elbit Systems Hermes 450 UAV, the sun reflecting off its wings similarly to the manned vehicles, looking as though it had always been a part of the aviation offerings launched from the small airport. All of us at the small airport in the heart of ag country could see that day what the future of the UAS industry could look like. It had nothing to do with the unique images and data profiles captured by that UAV we would later see. It had, instead, everything to do with that row of aviation offerings, some manned others unmanned, lined up on the grass, each one looking as important as the next. Patrick C. Miller’s feature, “Growing UAS Precision Agriculture,” on page 14, tells the full story of the project. For those relying on more than just a unique story and instead need hard data, trend line illustrations or detailed forecasts to envision what the future of the UAS industry, we have more. In 2013, the research and analytics team from The Teal Group released a UAS industry forecast study that has most likely been cited by more people in more places than any other study of its kind. This year, for the first time ever, the group took a new approach to its UAS study efforts and broke down what the future holds for civil, commercial and civil government UAS needs. We spoke with the lead author of the study to provide you with a snapshot (we couldn’t run a multi-hundred-page study in a single magazine issue) of the report, highlighting the important takeaways and trend lines worth taking a look at. If we had to sum up the theme of the study in one word, it would be simple: growth. And, not coincidentally, we could say the same thing about the overall industry as a whole. VOLUME 3 ISSUE 4

EDITORIAL Editor Luke Geiver Staff Writer Patrick C. Miller Copy Editor Jan Tellmann

PUBLISHING & SALES Chairman Mike Bryan CEO Joe Bryan President Tom Bryan Vice President of Operations Matthew Spoor Vice President of Content Tim Portz Business Development Manager Bob Brown Marketing & Sales Director John Nelson Circulation Manager Jessica Tiller Marketing & Advertising Manager Marla DeFoe


Art Director Jaci Satterlund Graphic Designer Lindsey Noble

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WIND INSPECTIONS NEEDED EVERYWHERE: In addition to generating $3.7 billion in revenue last year, the Nordex Group supplies wind blades and produces windenergy in 25 countries. PHOTO: THE NORDEX GROUP

Nordex, Lufthansa form wind energy, drone partnership A German-based wind energy producer and component manufacturer that generated $3.7 billion in revenue last year is now investing in drones. The Nordex Group has formed a partnership with German-based Lufthansa Aerial Services that will utilize 6


small unmanned aircraft vehicles for wind turbine inspections. LAS performed a pilot project with the wind blade manufacturer using a DJI drone to inspect rotor blades. The new partnership will eliminate the need for rope teams to inspect the blades. Ac-

cording to Nordex, the company will now be able to develop and implement timely and specific service and repair instructions based on the sUAV-captured data. The idea is to monitor the age progression of the turbines as well and find out which type needs

certain maintenance interval work performed. The new partnership should help to lower costs of energy production, said Bo Moerup, head of global service for the Nordex Group.


Lockheed launches sUAV from unmanned underwater vechicle Unmanned aircraft vehicles can now officially communicate and carry out missions with unmanned underwater vehicles. Lockheed Martin has successfully completed a demonstration including a sUAV Vector Hawk launched from the Marlin MK2 autonomous underwater vehicle. During an exercise controlled by the U.S. Navy, an unmanned ground station relayed communications to the Marlin, which then launched the Vector Hawk. “Lockheed Martin has heard loud and clear the U.S. Navy’s call to get faster, be more agile and to be continually creative,” said Frank Drennan, director of mission and unmanned systems business development. The 4-pound Vector Hawk can fly for 70-plus minutes in line of sight up to 15 kilometers. The system can be recovered and relaunched in a matter of minutes and its open architecture allows for quick change out times for batteries and payload options.

SUAS FROM UNDERWATER: The Marlin MK2 unmanned underwater vehicle was able to launch the Vector Hawk UAV during a demonstration mission controlled by the U.S. Navy. PHOTO: LOCKHEED MARTIN



Wyvern creates UAS operations risk assessment evaluation program John Meehan wants to bring the experience he gained working in the manned aviation industry with Fortune 100 companies to the unmanned aircraft systems industry. His team at Wyvern Ltd., a Pennsylvania-based aviation safety and risk management company, has created a system for major UAS commercial end-users to vet out potential UAS service providers. The system also helps UAS service providers enhance their safety profile and credibility for Fortune 100 firms that could be seeking their services. “A lot of operators are trying to win business with a lot of big companies,” Meehan says. “They want to see operators that have a very robust and documented program for procedures.” Through the newly created EXACT (excellence through assessment and continuous monitoring and training) program—a system designed to improve safety culture and the understanding of acceptable operations along with flight and risk mitigation—Wyvern can now



benchmark the relative risk of one UAV operator against another, Meehan says. The goal is to create a directory of certified UAV companies. According to Meehan, participants that go through the Wyvern EXACT program can negotiate better insurance premiums with their providers. “We aren’t trying to make people look bad, we are working to make people do better. This should allow you to go back to your insurance provider and request a better premium because you are showing a much higher commitment to safety than the rest of the pack,” he said. Operators can choose to participate in various assessment exercises that could include examinations of everything from sensor weights to operations manuals. Depending on the level of assessment, UAS operators could conduct the exercise through phone and email correspondence or through multi-week programs included on-site visits from the Wyvern team.

TYPICAL CAUSE OF AVIATION ACCIDENTS -70 to 90 percent of accidents are due to nonadherence of procedures, lack of training, bad decision-making and incorrect actions of personnel involved in maintenance, operations or design of aircraft. -U.S. Military UAS accident causes: pilot error (53 percent); mechanical failure (22 percent); weather (12 percent); other (13 percent)


ROOFTOP READY: Competitors in the MITRE challenged took positions on various vantage points to deploy radars, sensors and software packages designed to detect unwanted drones approaching from any direction. PHOTO: MITRE

Counter UAV systems put to test in MITRE challenge To test an array of new technologies or strategies designed to stop unwanted drones from entering no-fly zones, a team of researchers mimicked real-life scenarios. Organizers of a counter unmanned aircraft vehicle challenge looked to news headlines for inspiration, such as the drone that reached the White House lawn or the small UAV landing unannounced next to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Researchers from MITRE— a not-for-profit government organization that performs research and development—created the challenge. The goal was to put radar systems, software programs or physical hardware to the test in scenarios ranging from operators flying with little flight knowledge and no intent, to skilled pilots

flying with a deep technical knowhow combined with ill intent. “Spotting drones or stopping them from being where they aren’t supposed to be is becoming a national issue,” said Jonathan Rotner, lead sensor systems engineer and co-organizer of the counter UAV challenge. “The world is waking up to thinking about how to counter UAVs.” For two weeks, the counter UAV teams worked to mitigate unwanted drones flying into a fake city setting near Quantico, Virginia. “Tactically and technically, it gave a range of what our counter UAV systems could stop and what they were truly prepared for,” Rotner said, adding that following the competition the entire group realized there was no silver bullet. DroneRANGER, a system

NOT JUST BEGINNERS: Mimicing real-life scenarios, the challenge organizers flew sUAVs as if they were novice pilots or experienced operators with ill intent. PHOTO: MITRE

designed and built by Virginiabased Van Cleave and Associates, won the best end-to-end system for its 360-degree scanning radar, positioning system for visual and thermal imaging and radio frequency jammers. The system uses the radar and imaging before initiating the jamming frequencies. Not every winner utilized radio frequencies to stop drones,

however. SkyWall 100, a shouldermounted net-dispersing interdiction system won a $20,000 prize. The unit relies on a compressed air powered launcher and a projectile that includes a net and a parachute.



WHAT BROWN IS DOING FOR YOU: The three-mile demonstration flight utilized a sophisticated drone capable of flying autonomously. The system successfully flew over water and rough terrain to drop-off a child’s inhaler on an island unreachable by automobile. PHOTO: UPS

UPS unveils drone delivery capabilities

sustainability, said the successful exercise revealed a bridge to the future of UPS. “Our focus is on real-world applications that benefit our customers,” he said. “We think drones offer a great solution to deliver to hard-to-reach UPS believes the future of cuslocations in urgent situations where tomer service and urgent package de- other modes of transportation are not livery is linked to drone-based systems. readily available.” In late September, UPS performed The platform used in the threea package delivery demonstration mile delivery was battery-powered, that included a Massachusetts-based capable of autonomous flight, built unmanned aircraft systems developer, to be durable, capable of night vision a mock canister containing an inhaler flights and outfitted with secure comand an island off the coast of Masmunications that cannot be interceptsachusetts. ed or disrupted, according to CyPhy. CyPhy provided its Persistent CyPhy has created several unique Aerial Reconnaissance and Communi- robotic-based technologies, ranging cations system to UPS to fly from the from unmanned vacuums to tethered community of Beverly to Children’s drones to the PARC system. Island—a children’s camp not accesEarlier this year, Flirtey—a drone sible by automobile. developer also working on cargo deMark Wallace, UPS senior vice livery—performed a medical delivery president of global engineering and flight demonstration in New Jersey. 10


AUTONOMOUS DELIVERY: The CyPhy PARC UAS used for the UPS test delivery is capable of autonomous flight. It's equipped with night vision and secure communications. PHOTO: UPS


GE unveils prototype drone at Oil, Gas Center grand opening At the grand opening of its Oil & Gas Technology Center in Oklahoma City, GE unveiled several new projects, including work to develop a prototype drone nicknamed Raven. The multi-rotor platform has been designed to perform predetermined autonomous flights to inspect oil, gas and wastewater gathering lines for GE Oil & Gas upstream clients. The small drone was designed so that field personnel could operate the system if necessary regardless of background. A ground-based telecommunications systems deployed by GE will allow data collected from flight to be connected to analysts around the world.

IMPRESSIVE SHOWING: At its grand opening event, the GE team rolled out a series of professional videos highlighting the type of research and development will happen at the Center, incluidng drone work and a video on the Raven. PHOTO: GE OIL & GAS

Sensor packages outfitted on the platform can detect fugitive methane and gas emissions from well sites and other upstream infrastructure designed to move or store hydrocarbons in liquid or gas form.

Southwestern Energy, a major gas production firm and client of GE, tested the platform over well sites located in Arkansas in July.

Congress checks in on UAS industry after Part 107 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives checked in with four members for the unmanned aircraft systems industry to get an update on the effect of Part 107 since its release. In a hearing titled, “Opportunity Rising: the FAA’s new regulatory framework for commercial drone operations,” the Subcommittee on Investigations, Oversight and Regulations called on Brian Wynne, president of the Association for Unmanned Vehicles Systems International; Gabriel Dobbs, vice president of business development and policy for Kespry Inc.; Jonathen Daniels, president for Praxis Aerospace Concepts International Inc.; and Lisa Ellman, partner at Hogan Lovells.

“I am looking forward to hearing if the new rule is allowing small businesses in the UAS industry to make the important strides needed for this sector to continue growing and innovating at a rapid pace,” said Cresent Hardy, R-Nevada. Wynne said that on the first day the rule went into effect more than 3,300 people signed up to take the aeronautical knowledge test. Of the 530,000 people who registered their UAS with the FAA since December 2015, roughly 20,000 indicated they would operate commercially. And, Wynne added, over the next year the FAA expects the more than 600,000 UAS to be flying for commercial use. Each of the panelist agreed that the

waiver process created in Part 107 is crucial to move the industry forward. “It [Part 107] was a critical first start and we have seen that the floodgates truly opened,” said Ellman. The speed at which waivers for operations such as night flights or beyond visual line of sight are granted needs to happen at the speed of industry, she added. “Time will tell if the waiver process is more efficient,” Dobbs said. While each panelist voiced hope and concern for the waiver process, every speaker mimicked the sentiment of Wynne. “There is a tremendous amount of value that gets unlocked through these rules,” he said.

"The first day the rule went into effect more than 3,300 people signed up to take the aeronautical knowledge test"



MULTIPLE TOPICS: With more than 30 stakeholders in the advisory committee, the FAA will get perspective from a range including railroad personnel to Facebook representativeness. PHOTO: UAS MAGAZINE

Drone Advisory Committee annonced by FAA Issuing the small unmanned aircraft systems rule wasn’t the only major moment of the year for the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. In September, less than a month after releasing Part 107, the FAA announced the members of the first-of-its-kind Drone Advisory Committee. Roughly 400 organizations expressed interest in becoming part of the DAC, a group the FAA hopes can create a safe and effective regulatory framework for the UAS industry. The group is led by Brian Krzanich, CEO of Intel. “Drones will be one of the great computing platforms of the future,” he said. “I look forward to promoting innovation in drone technology that will improve people’s lives while spurring economic growth.” 12


The FAA said its members represent a wide array of stakeholders, including UAS manufacturers, operators, manned aviation groups, labor organizations, radio and navigation equipment manufacturers, airport operators and state and local officials. Three times a year, the committee will meet to discuss key issues and challenges in the national airspace. Subcommittees that form from the main group will help the FAA prioritize its activities, including the development of future regulations and policies. In total, the DAC consists of 34 members.

DRONE ADVISORY COMMITTEE MEMBERS INCLUDE: Chair: Brian Krzanich, Intel Corp. Greg Agvent, CNN Deborah Ale Flint, Los Angeles World Airports Juan Alonso, Stanford University Mark Baker, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Jaz Banga, Airspace Technologies Linden Blue, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Robert Boyd, Riley County, Kansas Tim Canoll, Air Line Pilots Association Nancy Egan, 3D Robotics Trish Gilbert, National Air Traffic Controllers Association Martin Gomez-Vesclir, Facebook Todd Graetz, BNSF Railway David Green, Wisconsin Department of Transportation, Bureau of Aeronautics Ryan Hartman, Insitu Robert Isom, American Airlines Gur Kimchi, Amazon Prime Air Ed Lee, San Francisco, California Nancy Leveson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Dave Mathewson, Academy of Model Aeronautics Nan Mattai, Rockwell Collins Houston Mills, UPS Marily Mora, Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority Christopher Penrose, AT&T Steven Rush, Professional Helicopter Pilots Association Lillian Ryals, The MITRE Corporation Robie Samanta Roy, Lockheed Martin Paola Santana, Matternet Ed Sayadian, Harris Corporation Brendan Schulman, DJI Technology Phil Straub, Garmin International Dave Vos, Google X Brian Wynne, Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Robert Young, PrecisionHawk Matthew Zuccaro, Helicopter Association International


Solar-powered UAV proves worth in refugee SAR mission A solar-powered unmanned aircraft system has proven its ability to help locate refugee’s day or night. A team of researchers from the Autonomous Systems Lab in Zurich, Switzerland, put its longendurance, record-breaking AtlantikSolar UAS in the sky for 26 hours to perform a search and rescue mission. Outfitted with an infrared camera, the system was able to fly in total darkness while still detecting simulated victims in need of help. “We could identify and retrieve their exact GPS location via our data links and could then forward their location to first-response teams on the ground,” said Philipp Oettershagen, research assistant at ASL. “In the end, after a full-night SAR mission, the aircraft had a remaining battery state of charge of 26 percent,” Oettershagen added. The ASL team believes the solarpowered UAV can be used for refugees in the Mediterranean Sea because the SAR missions require a large scale UAV capable of carrying large payloads while staying in the air for several hours at a time. The work on SAR missions isn’t the end for the ASL team. Along the coasts of Norway and Italy, the team will also perform border patrol missions where refugees are constantly crossing. And, next year the team will turn their focus to climate research. In the summer, the team will perform a six-week mission in Greenland that will include multi-hour flights over Arctic glaciers. “The harsh climatic conditions will be a significant challenge and will require us to draw on all our experience in meteorology-aware trajectory planning for solar-powered UAVs,” he said. “The fact that the sun never sets in the Arctic summer provides a significant operational advantage to solar-powered UAVs there.”

A TEAM EFFORT: Researchers with the Autonomous Systems Lab in Zurich, Switzerland, hold the AtlantikSolar unmanned aircraft system after a successful test flight. The aircraft will be used for climate change research in Greenland next year. PHOTO: AUTONOMOUS SYSTEMS LAB

TRACKS IN THE SKY: The navigation lights of the AtlantkSolar are visible in the night sky. During a simulated search-and-rescue mission, the UAS flew all night and retained a 26 percent charge in its batteries. PHOTO: AUTONOMOUS SYSTEMS LAB



DOWN ON THE FARM: Wide-open spaces, flat terrain and large farming operations made North Dakota's Red River Valley an ideal location for conducting UAS precision agriculture research. PHOTO: NORTH DAKOTA STATE UNIVERSITY



AGRICULTURE Elbit Systems of America brought its high-flying Hermes 450 to the farm fields of North Dakota to demonstrate how it can improve precision agriculture By Patrick C. Miller

Sarah Lovas admits that she’s something of a science nerd, which explains why she volunteered to participate in a precision agriculture 14


research project using an Elbit Systems of America medium-sized unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to survey crops.

“Precision agriculture is kind of my thing,” says Lovas, who farms with her husband Jason south of Hillsboro, North Dakota, in the Red River Valley—one of the world’s most fertile agricultural

areas. Wheat, barley, corn, potatoes, soybeans, sunflowers and sugar beets are among crops grown from the rich black soil on a landscape often described as “flat as a pancake.” This past summer, the fixedwinged, trademarked built and operated by Elbit took flight on daily missions out of the Hillsboro Regional Airport to test the concept of using a drone flying at 8,000 feet to monitor crop health. The aircraft demonstrated its ability to survey 40,000 square acres of crops in an hour. However, the project became much more than that. The Hermes also collected elevation data for mapping and participated in another project with Xcel Energy Inc. to


IS BIGGER BETTER?: One of the questions Elbit Systems of America wanted to answer was how its medium-sized Hermes 450 performed for precision agriculture in comparison smaller UAVs. PHOTO: UAS MAGAZINE

conduct research on using UAS to inspect electric transmission lines for storm damage. “Overall, it’s very exciting because we’re demonstrating the utility of a larger-sized UAS to do these kinds of missions—the ability to execute them and provide very accurate data,” says Raanan Horowitz, president and CEO of Elbit Systems of America, a subsidiary of Elbit Systems Ltd. based in Israel. When Lovas was asked about participating in a UAS precision ag research project that included her alma mater—North Dakota State University—she was all in. She grew up on a farm in the region and attended NDSU where she received a bachelor’s degree in agricultural systems management and a master’s degree in soil science. She also runs Lovas Consulting, using her education and experience to advise farmers on their crops and on how to incorporate precision ag practices into their operations.

As part of her work on the project, Lovas compared the 8-centimeter, high-resolution UAS imagery shot by the Hermes to the 30-meter, low-resolution satellite (Landsat) imagery the U.S. Geological Survey provides to farmers for free. There was no comparison. “Landsat is reflected bands of light—more like a blob—and not well-defined,” she notes. “The UAS image is a really detailed picture. You can actually see tracks and spots in the field.” Using UAS imagery and software on her computer, Lovas stitched the images together and statistically separated bands of light to show areas of plant health variability within crops. This information can help farmers address problems caused by insect infestations, crop disease, weeds and poor drainage or lack of moisture. Lovas observed that on a particular wheat field, there were only five satellite images available during the summer. Because of cloud cov-

HIGH-ALTITUDE DATA COLLECTION: John Nowatzki, agricultural machine specialist at North Dakota State University, was impressed with the quality of imagery the Hermes 450 collected from 8,000 feet up. PHOTO: UAS MAGAZINE



GO WITH THE FLOW: Although the Red River Valley appears flat, slight changes in terrain can have major impacts on how farm fields drain. Elevation data gathered by the Hermes 450 can help farmers design better drainage for their fields. PHOTO: ELBIT SYSTEMS OF AMERICA

er, just two of them were useable. In contrast, the UAS could provide high-quality, detailed images every seven to 10 days. Precision agriculture is already a reality for most U.S. farmers who use the technology to plant seed suited for certain soil conditions and apply specific prescriptions to solve certain types of problems with their crops. But Lovas believes that through more research and collaboration, UAS will eventually make agricultural production even more efficient and more precise. “If we’re going to farm large fields with large equipment, we need to be able to address those levels on a micro level,” she says. “I do that all the time, but I think UAS could help me do it even better.”

From Israel To The Farm Fields

One of the challenges Horowitz, made to his project team was to explore how a larger, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that requires more people, more infrastructure and a larger logistic footprint could be more effective than quadcopters or other small UAS currently used in precision agriculture. “It’s a good, interesting discussion on what you can do with a system like this with the level of sensors we have, both for the mapping and real-time video transmission,” he explains. “It’s not something you can do with a smaller UAS.” 16


The 20-foot-long Hermes weighs just under 1,000 pounds and has wingspan of 34 feet. The aircraft has accumulated more than 400,000 hours of flight time over a 15-year period. With 17 hours of endurance and a range of about 120 miles, it can carry two payloads that include an electro-optical and infrared sensor and the Vision Map A3 Edge digital mapping system. The Hermes was allowed to fly thousands of feet above the prairie because North Dakota’s Northern Plains UAS Test Site—one of six designated by the Federal Aviation Administration—has an FAA certificate of authorization (COA) for the Hillsboro area that allows flights up to 10,000 feet. Restrictions on beyond-visualline-of-sight operations required a chase plane from a local Civil Air Patrol wing to accompany the UAV on its flights. “The unique thing about this is that it’s really the first time we’re doing something more commercial in nature,” Horowitz says, noting that most of Elbit’s work is in the defense field. “There’s the unique elements of the specific data you need for agriculture. It’s interesting dealing and working with people who represent more of a consumer-type effort rather than a governmental effort—farmers and people who use the data for what they do in their professions.” One of those people is Lovas, who routinely works with local farmers as an agronomist to provide guidance on crop seed selection and

advice on how, when and where to apply pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer to their crops. “I am not a pilot and I have no desire to be a pilot or to fly a UAS,” she says. “But I’m really enthused about the data that can be produced from a UAS. As UAS technology and imaging move forward, you’re going to find that we have a need for people who actually fly and for people who actually work with the data.” Lovas quickly got involved in sharing her knowledge of agriculture with Yuval Chaplin, director of major campaigns with Elbit Systems of America, and the company’s UAS operators. “All of a sudden you’ve got pilots asking, ‘What’s a soybean aphid?’ she laughs. “We sat down and talked about what sensors they had on the aircraft. We had some really great conversations back and forth—a lot of theoretical things.” When they told Lovas the Hermes was equipped with a 3D digital mapping system, she drew on her knowledge of the area. The flat terrain of the Red River Valley sometimes creates drainage problems in fields that can lead to drowned crops. “I said, ‘When you’re up there, why don’t you turn on that sensor and see if we can do something with it?” she recalls. “Once they did that, it was pretty nice elevation data to work with. That was one of those things we talked about and they went out and did it, which was pretty cool.” She explains that although farmers have access to free LiDAR elevation data for the area, much of it was produced years ago and is outof-date. Over time, flooding and wind erosion can cause changes to the terrain. “For large watershed planning and flood planning, that data still works,” Lovas says. “Having up-to-date elevation data is very useful for farmers. I can figure out where many depressions are in the field and help them understand how they can drain their fields more effectively.”

Flight Origins

The idea to bring the Israeli-made drone to the U.S. originated about two years ago when Terry Sando, senior manager of UAS sector development with the Grand Forks (North Dakota) Region Economic Development Corp., began discussing potential U.S. projects with


Elbit. The company was looking to enter the U.S. commercial market with its medium-sized Hermes 450. As Sando recalls, a 2013 study conducted by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International steered Elbit toward precision ag. It concluded that while there were multiple uses for UAS, precision agriculture and public safety were the two most promising commercial and civil markets, comprising about 90 percent of the known potential markets. Sando also knew that John Nowatzki, an agricultural machine specialist with NDSU’s Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Department, was looking for a precision agriculture UAS research project using larger UAVs. After a year of discussions and a trade mission to Israel, Elbit brought the Hermes and its support equipment to the Hillsboro airport in the spring for a project funded by the company and the North Dakota Department of Commerce. The flat terrain, large farm fields and the relatively uncluttered skies of a mostly rural area made the Red River Valley attractive for research on precision ag UAS operations, according to Chaplin. “It’s a unique place for us in the emerging precision agriculture market,” he says. “There was a willingness to undertake the project and to balance the needs of stakeholders—farmers, universities, government agencies and anyone interested in agricultural technology. It’s a true center of excellence for UAS.” Nowatzki says he was impressed with the quality of the imagery the Hermes collected from 8,000 feet up and surprised at the accuracy of the elevation data it gathered. “My prediction is that we’re going to see plenty of UAVs in agriculture,” he says. One problem yet to be resolved, Nowatzki emphasizes, is the ability to transfer and analyze big data in a timely manner. For the information to be truly useful, he says it should be in the hands of farmers within 48 hours after it’s collected. “We’re hoping to work on that with the rural telephone companies and cable companies to improve it for next year,” Nowatzki says. Those involved in the project believe the research will resume next year with more Hermes flights over the Red River Valley. Even though

much was accomplished, Lovas says it will take years of research and collaboration to effectively mesh UAS technology with precision agriculture. There are also issues to be worked out such as privacy and data security. Nonetheless, she is optimistic about the future. “We’re at a point where the UAS industry and the agricultural industry are learning a lot about each other,” she explains. “We’re learning how to use this data. How do we incorporate it right now into what we’re doing? Eventually into

the future, I think it holds the power to completely change the way we’re doing everything.”

Flight Lessons

Little did Lovas know when she first volunteered for the project, it would lead to her giving a presentation at the end of the summer in front of a U.S. senator, two congressmen, the CEO of Elbit Systems of America, various North Dakota state officials, the news media and dozens of others who turned up Aug. 22


AFTER THE DISASTER: When damage from tornadoes and other storms cause power outages, having a done's-eye-view of the impacted area can help utilities restore service more quickly.

THIS IS ONLY A TEST: Laura McCarten, regional vice president with Xcel Energy Inc., explains how Elbit's UAS was used to detect simulated damage to the company's power transmission lines.




flew out of the Hillsboro (North Dakota) Regional Airport to gather baseline data from an altitude of 7,000 feet on Xcel’s electrical system in the small town of Mayville, North Dakota—about 14 miles away. The drone then flew another mission at 5,000 feet to test its ability to detect simulated damage to the town’s power grid. The Hermes showed that it could detect downed power poles in daylight and at night. “Xcel is constantly looking to improve the reliability of service to its customers and we think this technology will be one of those things,” McCarten says. “We’re very excited to see what this new research will bring for us.” The University of North Dakota, General Electric, the Northern Plains UAS Test Site and Waypoint Global Strategies are partners in the project.

Following a natural disaster, one statistic frequently cited is how many people are without power. Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy Inc. is working in partnership with Elbit Systems of America to test the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) technology to assess damage and restore electricity and natural gas service to its customers as quickly as possible after a storm. “We know today—more than ever—people cannot be without power,” says Laura McCarten, Xcel regional vice president. “We feel we do a very good job of it, but we’re constantly striving to do better. We see that this technology is going to help us take that next step forward.” During the summer, Elbit’s 450 Hermes medium-sized UAS

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for a field day at the Hillsboro Regional Airport. During her talk, Lovas explained that before having UAS imagery at her fingertips, much of her time was spent driving around fields on an all-terrain vehicle looking for problems. Now she has high-resolution images that can be imported into Google Earth. Using a GPS-equipped iPad, she can drive directly to a suspected problem area rather than spending hours guessing at where it might be. “I’ve heard people say that this data is going to replace agronomists on four-wheelers,� Lovas says. “Well, maybe one day it will. That day isn’t today, but it’s really neat to think about how a really good picture can be used to help me understand a problem and improve what I’m doing.

“It’s really exciting to sit and think and dream about it,� she continues. “I think it’s very realistic that in my lifetime, these things could very well come together.� When Lovas finished her talk on how UAS technology had positively impacted her farming operation and her work as an agronomist, a local farmer told her that she’d done more to promote UAS as an important tool for precision agriculture than anyone else who spoke during the event. Ultimately, she believes UAS technology will help American farmers feed a growing world population. “As farmers, we are constantly trying to do our best, both from an environmental standpoint as well as an economic standpoint,� Lovas says. “We produce the safest, most economical, en-

MORE PRECISE PRECISION AG: Sarah Lovas, a farmer and an agronomy consultant, practices precision agriculture on a daily basis, but she believes that UAS data will help the agriculture industry grow crops in a more efficient and environmentally friendly manner. PHOTO: UAS MAGAZINE

vironmentally friendly food in the world. That’s what the U.S. farmer does, and it’s technology like this that helps us accomplish that.�

Author: Patrick C. Miller Staff Writer, UAS Magazine 701-738-4923



The Future of VTOL UAS )$67









World Civil UAS Market Forecast Summary by Sector TOTAL 3,972,445 TOTAL 139,873




37,000 343,330 8,311 70,810 1,178 5 Total 24 202 023 20 2 2 2 0 1 2 20 202 019 20 2018 2 7 1 0 2 2016



l 25 Tota 024 20 2023 2 2 2 0 2 1 20 202 019 20 2018 2 7 1 0 2 2016



Numbers of the FUTURE

TOTAL 34,000

Behind the huge numbers, major projections and author sentiments of the Teal Group’s newest civil UAS market study.

CONSUMER Air Vehicles (thousands)




Total 4 2025 23 202 0 2 2 2 021 20 2020 2 8 2019 1 0 2 7 01 2016 2


By Luke Geiver

From private boardrooms to governmentled public forums, the Teal Group has become the go-to reference for unmanned aircraft systems market projections. When data is needed to

convey the massive UAS market growth ahead, the Teal Group’s 2013 UAV market assessment—projected at $11.6 by 2023—is widely cited. Now, for the first time ever, the Teal team—led by Phil Finnegan—has split out civil and commercial systems from the market analysis firm’s annual UAS profile. The resulting study shows near- and long-term trends for commercial application adoption, industry plans and UAV production and nationwide implementation projections, all of which is a departure from the team’s previous work that included the element of aerospace military and defense. “What we are trying to do is give the participants in the UAS sector a sense of the direction of the market, where the opportunities are and a way of looking at the market and being able to better allocate resources in areas of growth,” says Finnegan.



2016 World Commercial/Consumer Market Forecast Units (Air Vehicles)


2020 World Commercial/Consumer Market Forecast Units (Air Vehicles)


For civil UAS, the growth Finnegan uncovered in the market is staggering. In the next decade, the growth rate in civil UAS will quadruple. This year, non-military UAS production will total $2.6 billion and by 22


2025, it will reach $10.9 billion. This year, there will be one million UAVS produced. In 2018, there will be 2 million UAVs produced and operating around the world. Although consumer systems currently lead the mar-

ket right now, commercial systems will surpass all categories by 2022, the study says. Civil (non-military) UAS projections are trending higher than military and defense in the next decade due to the mindset of com-

mercial enterprises, Finnegan says. Military groups are willing to pay for incremental improvements in technology offerings. Commercial enterprises, he says, are not. “They are totally focused on the bottom line,” he says.


2016 World Commercial/Consumer Market Forecast Value ($ Millions)


2020 World Commercial/Consumer Market Forecast Value ($ Millions)


Hobby drone makers outside the commercial market are working their way in. Even as the consumer market is projected to stay hot over the next few years, many manufacturers in the hobby space are working to move up the value

chain into the commercial segment. Regulations put in place withing the past two years have made operating in the commercial space not only feasible, but economically lucrative. Due to new regulations in

the U.S. and abroad, the global outlook has never been more positive, Finnegan says. “There are now enough regulations in place. The trend lines are clear enough now that you can see how things will develop.”


In the near-term, the construction, surveying and energy industries will lead the implementation and UAV use growth cases. According to the report, all 10 of the largest worldwide construction firms are





World Civil UAS Production Forecast 4,750,000 Air Vehicles $12,000



2,250,000 $6,000



$0 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 2024 2025 SOURCE: THE TEAL GROUP

along with a list of U.S. and French operators including the manufacturers of the systems. The study—available for purchase on CD—also includes

10-year forecasts by customer, region and class of UAS as well as by market.

Author: Luke Geiver Editor, UAS Magazine 701-738-4944


ing or experimenting with systems and will soon be able to deploy fleets anywhere in the world. The three largest construction equipment suppliers are also invested in drones, Finnegan says, as all three are either distributing or planning to build their own platforms. While many continue to watch the link between UAVs and precision agriculture, the study shows the connection may take longer to make than some might believe. Drones used to provide communication services such as wireless internet are making great strides, however. Facebook and Google are each developing their own high altitude long endurance system capable of providing internet to remote areas without landing for several days or weeks. The Airbus Group is already in production of system that appears to be feasible, Finnegan adds. Like precision agriculture, cargo delivery has been a use case many believe will happen. When it does, Finnegan says, is hard to guess. In the current Teal study the team couldn’t even make any broad projections about the timeline or feasibility of cargo delivery based on the lack of information on available systems or any clear regulatory framework. For government agencies and peacekeeping groups, the use of UAVs will ramp-up in the years to come as the groups work to monitor escalating situations or keep track of immigrant movements, the study said. In its entirety, the study consists of 608-pages that include forecast spreadsheets that allow for data manipulation,


UAV Average Assessed Costs

Consumer UAV $1,000

Prosumer UAV $2,000 to $3,000

Mini UAV $40,000 to $50,000

Small/Naval UAV $500,000 to $1,000,000

Tactical UAV $4,000,000

Male UAV $16,000,000

Agricultural Spraying UAV $100,000

WILLING BUYERS: Although military and government entities are willing to pay for incremental technology upgrades, smaller-scale commercial UAS buyers want a major upgrade in technology before they pay more for a new platform. INFORMATION PROVIDED BY THE TEAL GROUP


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For the critical testing of Beyond Visual Line of Sight, the FAA Northern Plains Test Site will be using Licensed 700 MHz A Block Spectrum. Access Spectrum leads a group of licensees that are selling Upper 700 MHz A Block Licenses, a perfect spectrum home for UAS. It’s exclusive, interference-free, and currently being tested at the Northern Plains Unmanned Aerial Systems FAA Test Site to be considered the nation’s premier standard for commercial UAS for beyond-visual-line-of-sight command and control systems. When testing proves successful, 700 MHz A Block premium spectrum will be the safest, most ideal spectrum option in the country for small commercial UAS.

Benefits of owning Upper 700 MHz A Block Spectrum: • Reduced risk of lost link

“ The Northern Plains UAS Test Site intends to access this private spectrum for research projects to test the safety and efficiency of this communications channel for UAS

• Opportunity for reduced insurance premiums


• Safest option for flying beyond visual line of sight

Robert Becklund Northern Plains UAS Test Site Director

• Flexibility to lease unused spectrum for other applications

Major UAS equipment manufacturers are already developing command and control equipment on the 700 MHz A Block Spectrum.

Exclusive 700 MHz A Block Spectrum Licenses for sale across the United States. Contact John Vislosky, Senior Vice President, Access Spectrum, LLC 301.941.1110 | |