Hawkeye Target the Cropping and Agriculture Market with TWO Camera UAV

HAWKEYE have released their latest UAV designed for the agriculture market post successful trials in New Zealand.  The RQ-84Z series UAV is a laminar flow UAV designed for photogrammetry payloads and now carries TWO Sony Nex-5 series cameras with specialist lenses both imaging simultaneously for NDVI capture.  This adaptation, along with other design improvements such as RTK GPS have improved overall efficiency for agricultural market acquisition.  The ease of launch, parachute recovery,  integration with ArcGIS and robust Kevlar construction provide a commercial grade solution for Agribusiness.  Impending upgrades include  a 40 megapixel sensor upgrade in early 2014.

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Comment by Shawn Burns on October 12, 2013 at 4:42pm
Yikes! Lookout 3DRobotics...
Comment by Stan Clayton on October 12, 2013 at 7:32pm

@Shawn...at $80-thousand a pop, are you sure?

Comment by UAVStuff on October 12, 2013 at 7:43pm

I still don't understand commercial UAS pricing.  Fiberglass airframe like that most cost $1000, $2000.  Throw in electronics and autopilot, you'd be at maybe $5000.  Add two NEX cameras, and you're at $7500.  Multiply that by two as many commercial solutions include two planes, that's $15,000.  Ground station would be another $3000.  You're looking at total cost for the whole UAS package of $18k.  

Where is the other $62k going?  One hundred hours of labor at $500/hr?

Comment by Shawn Burns on October 12, 2013 at 7:45pm

My sarcasm wasn't strong enough. ;)

An F550 can do that if someone wanted it to, for a lot less than 80K!

Comment by Rowland on October 12, 2013 at 9:19pm

@UAVstuff,  with all due respect those cost assessments are incorrect.  As an example - two lenses that we use are $1000 each not including filters.  We also have Nex series sensors that are stripped down to save weight  (time and labor)  A remote viewer is required to adjust camera settings prior to flight and the cameras are wired into our autopilot direct  So the sensor package is $7500 alone (USD) - to us as manufacturers.
The RQ-84 also conducts significant surveys around the world for professional services and is not $80K.


Comment by UAVStuff on October 12, 2013 at 9:44pm

That makes sense.  The post didn't mention anything about a custom NEX package (aside from the lenses), and I can understand those costs being high.

So that's still $25-30k, assuming it comes with two planes.  And even if we assume my figures are low by 50%, that's a max of $45k.  Obviously we don't really know what goes into a system like this.  But My point is that it doesn't feel like it should cost that much.  Perhaps it's just because we're approaching it from a DIY perspective rather than an industrial commercialized perspective.

Comment by Rowland on October 12, 2013 at 10:08pm

I understand your sentiment and I think you nailed it on the industrial perspective.     When you are relying on gear to do survey grade tasks, DIY wont cut it. We do have a lot of extras as you note.

Comment by LanMark on October 12, 2013 at 10:36pm

80k?   you can get a SenseFly eBee for $29k, and a Trimble UX5 in the $45k and a AgEagle in the < $20k category..  So 80k is a really expensive way to get a sensor up in the air.. the same sensor anyone can buy and mount on their wing.   Sure there is probably some nice polish but regardless that is a expensive package for not a apparent advantage..  I know that the eBee can now fly in swarm.. so you can use multiple units to get better/faster coverage which is important in agriculture as atmospheric changes can greatly effect that quality of your data.   So for the price you would be better off getting two eBees and flying them in tandem.

Lets just assume this aircraft lasts 5 years operation wise... that's a operational cost of $2700/month of the growing season to operate.  That's a lot of savings it would have to generate in order just to pay for it operationally, which may just not be there.

The other problematic item is flying multiple cameras and co-registering the data in post processing... which is in a lot of ways is highly problematic and time consuming.   You are better off flying a single camera with a NIR band.. such as some of the MaxMax NIR/G/B cameras.

It really comes down to the most effective way to get a sensor up in the air.. the other stuff is just polish on the experience... sure there are some things the factor in the quality of the image but I don't think this plane takes any better pictures than say a Zephyr II which is $200ish.

Not sure how a 40MP camera helps all that much especially if you have a limited ceiling in which to fly.. like here in the states at 120m/400feet.

I am the creator of AgPixel and we have spent a lot of time trying to fully understand the technologies and produce a product that doesn't just make pretty picture but tries to understand the imagery into actionable intelligence.  In the next couple months there will be massive updates coming to address many of the challenges that come with high resolution remote sensing.   There is a lot of exciting things that can be done in agriculture remote sensing.. and we will soon have very good ideas on the value add of this technology.. and if a 80k plane can be cost justified over say a 2k plane... but like I said it is all about getting a sensor up in the air and capturing the data.. how you go about doing that vastly differs... clearly.

Comment by Gary Mortimer on October 13, 2013 at 12:53am

Its about reliability and then the next point will be for all these platforms, have they the appropriate paperwork from regulatory authorities. I am sure that is a very nice aeroplane, you still couldn't operate it legally in the USA at the minute its not been signed off. The ones that have cost $300,000 a go. 

If it get's the job done as advertised with little fuss it would be worth every cent of its ticket price. When I tried to run a reliability round for the T3 we did not have a single entry. 

Comment by Deon van der Merwe on October 13, 2013 at 7:54am
Let me ascend the soapbox for a minute:

If the FAA only makes $300K systems legal, then the whole enterprise will remain restricted to the few, and much of the potential will be lost.

The Hawkeye looks like a great system BUT, $80K for an agricultural drone is only going to tempt those who have money to burn. In my opinion, if you have $80K to spend on an agricultural system, you should rather buy a couple of proven fixed wing designs and multirotors. And a series of color-infrared cameras, including light weight p&s and heavier, interchangeable lens models. That would give you the flexibility to apply the technology in a variety of agricultural situations, and give you the redundancy needed to keep going when it counts.

When you visit the shops of those who are doing this successfully beyond the "proof of concept" stage, you will see a fleet of aircraft, because when you need to fly today, you need to fly TODAY. And, when (not if) you have a hard landing, you are not grounded, and replacing damaged components should not cost an arm and a leg.

BTW, we have been using a fleet of APM-equipped Zephyrs, week in and week out, for two growing seasons, landing in the rough on most flights, and they are showing no signs of quitting. There are other good, affordable airframes too, the important thing is to use something that flies well, and is robust. It is a tool.


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