While drones in plant agriculture are now well-established as a significant tool for managing resources, drones aren’t as commonly utilized to manage livestock. Now, non-profit group Meat & Livestock Australia and leading drone services provider Aerodyne have announced a $5.1 million ‘Drone as a Silent Service’ R&D Program to study the issue.
According to a press release, the new program will research 9 “key focal points” for the first drone program for meat and livestock asset management:
- Fence Monitoring – Autonomous sensing and software to identify and categorise damage.
- Herd Location – Developing algorithms to measure herd behaviour, distribution andmovements.
- Bull Tagging – Utilising ‘Smart’ tags to ascertain bull location in relation to a herd.
- Weed Location – Autonomous sensing to identify weeds (particularly those hazardous tocattle), and software algorithms to provide advanced analytics and prescribed preventative
- Feral Control – Identification and analysis of pests and feral animals.
- Feedbase Monitoring – Developing algorithms to sense and categorise ground coverageand produce detailed pasture analytics and reports.
- Water Monitoring – Develop sensors and algorithms to autonomously measure tanks,troughs, rivers and dams. Identify dead stock, water diseases and bogged animals.
- Feedlot – A reporting solution which can make suggestions for water time, feed time,isolation and growth factors.
- Tagless ID – A system for reliable identification of non-tagged animals.
“The ultimate aim is to develop solutions that run as a ‘silent service’ – removing the need for producers to be tethered to the drones and other automated sensors which capture, analyse and report data,” says the release.
“The two-year project forms part of MLA’s wider ‘Unmanned’ strategy to develop and implement fully autonomous solutions for the benefit of their 50,000+ members in the Australian livestock-producer industry. It will look at the role of automation and value-chain technologies in supporting livestock health, crop management, farm productivity and real-time weather sensing.”
“Aerodyne are delighted to announce our involvement in this innovative and disruptive project. Integrating drones and other autonomous technology into a smart, connected network of sensors gives us the opportunity to completely change the way that large-scale livestock and agriculture operations are managed,” says Kamarul A, CEO of Aerodyne. “Australia is the ideal testing ground to develop new systems and build on the lessons that Aerodyne have learned from our extensive experience in providing commercial drone solutions. We look forward to working with MLA and their members at such an exciting time for both our industries.”
“MLA has three clear roles in the development and deployment of autonomous systems for the red meat industry. Firstly to demonstrate what they can be used for, secondly to develop platforms, sensors and algorithms and finally to ensure that when all of these components are combined they offer a fully autonomous solution that we call a silent service,” says Sean Starling, GM of Research, Development and Innovation for Meat & Livestock Australia. “Having producers at the controls of unmanned vehicles is not viable in the long-term, and it doesn’t add value to their productivity. We believe that Aerodyne provides expertise in all these areas.”