Will Hillsboro, N.D., Be An Ag UAV Launch Pad For RRV?

A reader texts me a link to the the Hillsboro (N.D.) Banner online version on July 24 that carries a story by Jack Dura, talking about an Israeli-based electronics company looking to use drones from the Hillsboro Regional Airport for gathering data on agriculture and other research.

Dura writes that the Traill County Economic Development Commission goes before a North Dakota Department of Commerce review panel on Aug. 12 and expects an answer by Aug. 15, according to the report.

The paper says that on  July 22 officials of Elbit Systems based in Haifa, Israel, toured the airport, which is about halfway between Grand Forks, N.D., and Fargo, N.D.

JJohn Nowatzki, a North Dakota State University machine specialist with the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems, says the rules are about what he had expected. File photo, taken in June 2014 in Fargo, at NDSU. (Forum News Service/Agweek/Mikkel Pates)
I took this photo of John Nowatzki, a North Dakota State University machine specialist with the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems, and a research drone,  June 2014 in Fargo, at NDSU.

According to The Banner, Elbit’s vice president Danny Israeli and Yuval Chapin, the company’s director of U.S. campaigns, met with Terry Sando of the Grand Forks Regional Economic Development and John Nowatzki of the North Dakota State University Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, to look at the runway and location.

Elbit hopes to use the Hermes 450, what he described as a “system of systems.” The vehicle is 1,200 pounds and can carry sensors and cameras of up to 400 pounds, and can scan at about 92 mph.

According to the article, it would be used on a variety of crops, including sugar beets, soybeans, corn, potatoes, sunflower, wheat and barley, and would be able to scan them for nitrogen deficiencies and disease, among other things.