With its payload of 2 Kg, the Tron offers the ideal platform for particularly large and / or many sensors in order to be able to deliver perfect results even with complex research tasks without having to compromise on the flight time.
That’s exactly why the Tron was the ideal carrier system for the custom sensor integration at the Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF), consisting of a Sony Alpha 5100, Tetracam Micro MCA6 Snap, FLIR Tau2 and the Light Sensor ILS 12 channel.
“Cooperation with the ZALF was and still is fortunate for Quantum-Systems”, says Armin Busse, CFO, “As one of the first pilot projects, we were able to prove what our vision for the Tron looks like: A professional platform for customer-specific applications, including a continuous customer support. ”
The Tron has been in productive use since July 2017. In the interview Marc Wehrhan, as project manager for its usage at the ZALF:
What is your profession?
I’m a Geographer.
What are you doing at ZALF?
Remote sensing of crop status and soil properties.
How can UAS help you with your Job?
Among other fields of research our work focuses on the carbon cycle in terrestrial agroecosystems. For a deeper insight into the role of soils in the soil-plant-atmosphere system at the local and regional scale, the availability of spatial data is crucial to our work. Satellite imagery is an important source of information but often lack of the required spatial resolution to delineate small-scale patterns in heterogeneous soil landscapes. UAS can help us to fill the gap between in-situ (ground) measurements and satellite imagery by providing multispectral ultrahigh resolution imagery of specifically targeted areas and dates.
The custom payload for the Tron at the ZALF
Enough space and payload in the nose cone of the Tron for the Sony Alpha 5100, Tetracam Micro MCA6 Snap, FLIR Tau2 and the Light Sensor ILS 12 channel.
Why did you go for Quantum-Systems?
We needed replacement for our aged fixed wing UAS and looked for a state of the art system that meets our requirements concerning payload, duration and applications. In our eyes the Tron appeared to be the most advanced and reliable System available on the market. The demonstration of the Tron convinced us with the easy handling even for operators with little flight experience.
Demonstration of the Tron near Quantum-Systems HQ
How did the partnership turn out and what was the final product?
The team demonstrates a high level of expertise and commitment to realize a customized solution for our comprehensive camera payload. However, after purchasing the partnership continued. The support provided by Quantum-Systems is outstanding. Questions have been answered immediately and even suggested improvements related to ground control station design or data handling have been implemented quickly.
How did the Tron benefit your work?
Compared to the former used fixed wing UAS the Tron enables a higher efficiency and flexibility. The Tron is easy and quickly assembled and initialized, independent of airstrips for take-off and landing and finally has excellent flight characteristics. These aspects are essential to our work since they save time and thereby extend the area of operation and enable improved image quality.
The Tron in its transportation box
All parts of the Tron stow away nicely in one rugged transportation box.
What do you wish for the future regarding UAS in agricultural use cases?
From a technical point of view? What all operators wish: longer flight duration for larger areal coverage, lower cruising speed in the case of fixed wing UAS, more payload or, in other words, the “eierlegende Wollmilchsau”. And all that at lower prices.
Regarding the expected increasing number of UAS not only for agricultural applications, the aspect of safety should be mentioned. This includes e. g. the integration of transponders and SAA (sense and avoid) technologies.
Looking a little further into the future, an increase in efficiency is mandatory for the prevalence of UAS in agricultural use cases. Regarding the large areas in use many UAS will be needed and consequently many operators. If UAS are to have a chance in the future it should be possible to control many UAS at the same time by only one operator.
What would you recommend to professionals who think about adding a UAV to their quiver of instruments?
It depends on the application and the payload. However, a combination of a fixed wing with vertical take-off and landing capabilities is always a good choice since the operator can keep all options open. Professionals should be aware that a complex technology is worthless without a strong vendor providing excellent support and holding high quality standards.
In 10 years from now, how will agriculture be like?
This is hard to predict. Visions concerning the future of agriculture in the developed countries are subsumed in the current discussion under the heading “Farming 4.0”. This includes the improvement of food security, food quality, sustainable land management and environmental protection through the use of technologies promoting automation and digitisation.
UAS have the potential to support these aims and the technology is generally available. Nevertheless the challenges are therefore many regarding legal frameworks, the degree of automation, the generation of required products, standards, expenses, the acceptance of both farmers and society, to name but a few.