User blog: Bruce McPherson

Anyone in the world

The country of Jordan is experiencing some serious buyer's remorse.

At least one buyer of China’s copy of the famous Predator is none too happy. Jordan is selling off its fleet of CH-4B “Rainbow” drones after owning them for just two years. The Middle Eastern kingdom was reportedly not happy with the drones’ performance and is seeking to unload them at auction.

The CH-4B drones first surfaced in public media in 2016. Built by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASTC), the CH-4B appears very similar to the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper armed unmanned aerial vehicle. The CH-4B also carried some impressive specs, with Popular Mechanics noting in July 2016 it could carry, “up to 770 pounds of munitions, including the Blue Arrow 7 laser-guided air-to-surface missile, TG-100 laser, inertial or GPS-guided bombs, and the HJ-10 anti-tank missile.” The Chinese drone could also fly for up to 14 hours, loitering over mission areas for the better part of the day.

As late as last year pundits were already calling China a winner of the rush to sell armed drones abroad, as U.S. red tape can often hold up arms sales for years. China does not have that problem and has sold the CH-4B to numerous countries, including Algeria, Nigeria, Jordan, Zambia, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Turkmenistan, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, and Myanmar.

But there's one problem: CASTC has an inferior drone problem. According to FlightGlobal, Jordan has complained about its drone fleet since 2018. The Royal Jordanian Air Force declined to go into specifics as to why the CH-4B is let down, but simply said it was downsizing and removing several types of aircraft from its fleet. According to Shepard Media, as late as November 2018, Jordan admitted it was “not happy with the aircraft’s performance and was looking to retire them.”

If you’re interested in a Chinese drone fleet of your own, bidding for the CH-4Bs ends on July 1st.

By Kyle Mizokami 
[ Modified: Tuesday, 18 June 2019, 10:15 AM ]
 
Anyone in the world

Aeromao from Canada is pleased to announce that the Aeromappers line of commercial grade drones have been added to the list of compliant UAV systems of Transport Canada. This distinction allows Canadian organizations using Aeromapper drones to apply for Compliant Operator status.  
A total of four drone system models the company produces have been added to the list of compliant UAV systems for advanced operations, according to Transport Canada UAS Standard:

  • Aeromapper Talon
  • Aeromapper 300
  • (New) Quad Mapper VTOL: fixed wing system with VTOL capabilities
  • (New) Nano Mapper: sub 1Kg. fixed wing drone suited for agriculture and high affordability.
The Quad Mapper VTOL and Nano Mapper are two new UAV systems that will soon be made available to the public.  
Two more variants of the Aeromapper Talon are currently awaiting confirmation from Transport Canada to be added to the list of compliant drones: Aeromapper Talon Amphibious and Aeromapper Talon LITE (a 3hr endurance version also suitable for BVLOS operations).

Aeromao’s UAV solutions officially meet Transport Canada’s standards of safety and efficiency. We are truly excited to continue assisting Canadian and foreign customers with their drone programs, not only by ensuring that our systems continue meeting the latest regulatory policy changes but also by diversifying our line of commercial drone systems that fit all customer requirements and budgets” says Mauricio Ortiz, CEO of Aeromao.

The Aeromappers have demonstrated over the years a history of safe operation in some of the harshest environmental conditions both in Canada and other countries around the world.

For more information please visit www.aeromao.com
[ Modified: Saturday, 8 June 2019, 12:35 PM ]
 
Anyone in the world

By Landview Drones, Markus Weber 


As of June 1, everyone operating a drone over 250 grams will require a Certificate and every drone must also be registered. This is due to coming-into-force of Transport Canada's amendments to Part IX of the Canadian Aviation Regulations.  But new rules are actually great news for agricultural drone users.

For those using a drone as a toy, these new rules are a significant new barrier since they previously could fly almost anywhere. But they are great news for those using a drone as a tool. In order to use a drone commercially on your farm last month, you would have needed to do exhaustive paperwork to apply for a Special Flight Operations Certificate for every drone and pilot, for a specific region and time. This month, the regulations are much clearer and for most people passing a simple online test will allow you to fly any drone up to 25 kilograms, almost anywhere.

Where can I fly?
4efd0f80-bcd1-4b1a-9eac-c885a5777051.pngFor most farmers and rural businesses, a Basic Certificate will suffice. It will allow you to fly only in uncontrolled (Class G) airspace and at least 3 nautical miles (5.6 km) from certified airports / 1 nautical mile (1.9 km) from certified heliports. Not sure what that means for you?  Well, there's a new tool for that too: the NRC has created the Drone Site Selection Tool which will show you where you can fly with a Basic or Advanced Certificate.
 
The Drone Site Selection Tool provides a graphical way for RPAS pilots to find where they can fly legally. It shows restricted, controlled and safe flying areas, and helps pilots ensure they comply with Transport Canada drone safety requirements.
 
There are of course other restrictions too, but these all make sense. You must keep the drone:
  • at least 30 metres (laterally) from people that are not part of the operation
  • at least 30 metres from buildings that are not part of the operation
  • within visual line of sight
  • no higher than 122 metres above ground
  • well away from any other aircraft
The new rules, with some restrictions, will now even allow us to fly at night or with FPV goggles.  How do you feel about checking your cows at night with a thermal camera? As long as you're well away from airports, that's legal now! 

How do I pass the test?
The Basic test is somewhat challenging, but it does make sense that you would need to know the laws and some basics of safe operation. The focus of the test is the new rules, so if you review Part IX of the regulations themselves, that should help a lot. Many questions will require some research, but you have 90 minutes to write it, so there’s time to refer to reference materials.  You cannot give or receive help from anyone or copy the test questions, but you can consult other resources.  Many questions are written so that there is one incorrect answer and three that are good, better, best.  That makes it somewhat challenging to figure out the right answer.  But the good news is that they are all multiple choice questions: 90 minutes for 35 questions. And you need only 65% to pass.

To prepare for the test you will want to especially brush up on the new laws themselves. Here are some other links to useful information:Unfortunately, farmers and agronomists are too busy to attend our Ag Drone School, so it is closed for the summer season. But we will be offering it across western Canada again this fall and spring. If you'd like to host us in your town, please do let us know.

What if I need to fly in controlled airspace?
If you are unfortunate enough to have land in close proximity to certified airports, then you will require an Advanced Certificate.  The test for it is considerably more challenging in terms of the online test (80% to pass, 50 questions in only 60 minutes).  The Advanced will also require an in-person Flight Review that tests your ability to fly and to coordinate airspace. Both of those require considerably more knowledge, both to pass the test and to actually coordinate the airspace, so we recommend the Advanced Certificate only for people that absolutely need to fly in controlled airspace (more info on the new categories of drone operation).

If you are one of the unfortunate ones with land inside the 3 nautical miles of a certified airport or in controlled airspace, we have a solution for you.
Clarion Drone Academy has developed a three-step program that gives participants a much higher likelihood of successfully completing the requirements for an Advanced Certificate, including both the online Transport Canada test and the in-person Flight Review. 

The bulk of the learning would be online, with a one-day "Mission Planning" course as preparation for the Flight Review the following day.  We still have the following dates available, but registration is required a week before the event -- and you will need to pass your online test well before attending the Mission Planning course (it is a requirement to qualify for the Flight Review).

We are working on the details of more deliveries this summer, but for those needing their Certificate immediately, we have the following dates left this month:
  • Lloydminster        June 24-25
  • Peace River         June 27-28 
  • Calgary                June 27-28
Enroll today through Clarion's website at www.clariondrones.com or contact us at LandView at school@landview.com or (780) 448-7445.

[ Modified: Friday, 7 June 2019, 3:32 PM ]
 
Anyone in the world

Silent Falcon UAS Technologies, a leading UAS service provider and manufacturer of the Silent Falcon™, a solar electric, fixed wing, Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), is pleased to announce the introduction of the Silent Falcon™ EE or Extended Endurance model. The Silent Falcon™ EE incorporates the newest technological innovations in solar panels, battery and solar power conversion. Silent Falcon™ EE can stay aloft for up to 8 hours in day time, and 4 hours at night.

The communications capabilities of the Silent Falcon™ EE have also been upgraded by including three MIMO MANET radios at the Ground Control Station with the SF TriAntenna configuration. This configuration significantly increases connectivity, bandwidth and reliability. It also allows one of the radios to be used to be used to connect a remote site, such as a command center to the radio network.

This is an exceptional technological achievement for Silent Falcon™ as it continues to extend its mission set, expand its capabilities and perform more challenging assignments. The Silent Falcon™ platform has been successfully used in various Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance; Search and Rescue and long-range border patrol missions across the globe; and in extreme environmental conditions while assisting the US Department of Interior in wildfire fighting operations. Its long-range, long-endurance attributes, as well as its portability and very small operational footprint proved to be key factors contributing to the success of these missions.

“We continually push the envelope bringing new and proven technologies to the Silent Falcon™ Unmanned Aircraft System, increasing its capabilities, reliability and applicability to diverse missions. The Silent Falcon™ is an open interface, open architecture modular system that was designed to easily integrate new technologies and capabilities once they have been proven in the field. The Silent Falcon™ EE is a great example of this —“ extended endurance with more robust solar power, and rock-solid communications for more reliable longer-range missions” said John W. Brown Silent Falcon’s™ Chairman and CEO.” We are flying the Silent Falcon™ EE now for our own UAS services customers and look forward to making it the new standard for long endurance, long range electric UAS”.

By Press
[ Modified: Tuesday, 4 June 2019, 3:21 PM ]
 
Picture of Bruce McPherson
by Bruce McPherson - Friday, 31 May 2019, 8:03 AM
Anyone in the world

The South African National Blood Service (SANBS) and Western Cape Blood Service (WCBS) came together at the North Eastern Radio Flyers in Sandton to showcase how they intend to save more lives using drone technology.

The TRON Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) is a highly specialized aircraft that will be used to transport blood from blood banks to hospitals in remote areas. The TRON, like a helicopter, is capable of vertically taking off and landing. Once in flight, it switches into a highly efficient aircraft. In an emergency, blood can be delivered to hospitals much faster and more efficiently than ever before.

According to the SANBS, the TRON aerial vehicle will be a South African first, complementing the existing logistics infrastructure. It will continue to cement the not-for-profit organization’s place as a thought leader and a cornerstone of the healthcare system in SA through the gift of life.

“We believe that this is an innovative step in the history of blood transfusion. SANBS is determined to improve rapid access to life-saving blood products in rural areas through the use of drone technology. Our concept is globally unique in that we will provide two-way logistics; patients can receive emergency “O negative” blood from one of our blood banks via drone. The same drone can then take that patient’s blood sample to the blood bank for comprehensive cross-matching and then safely and rapidly deliver compatible blood back to the patient” says Dr. Jonathan Louw, CEO of the SANBS.

The WCBS say that this initiative is commendable and will indeed be instrumental in saving lives. “We celebrate a milestone. Our main aim as a blood service in the Western Cape is to save people’s lives by providing sufficient, safe blood. Drones will assist us to provide blood timeously to where it is needed,” says Dr Greg Bellairs, WCBS CEO/Medical Director.

By Press
[ Modified: Friday, 31 May 2019, 8:04 AM ]
 
Anyone in the world

As of June 1, 2019, new Transport Canada regulations apply to all remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) operating in Canadian airspace. Owners of RPAs (also known as drones or UAVs) must follow the requirements for operating their RPA in each class of Canadian airspace. 

What you need to know

Airspace in Canada is classified as controlled or uncontrolled.​ If you plan to operate in uncontrolled airspace (Class G), you will need a Transport Canada Pilot Certificate – Basic Operations. NAV CANADA does not provide authorization​ for RPA flights in uncontrolled airspace.

If you plan to operate your RPA in controlled airspace (Classes C, D or E) you must have a 

Transport Canada Pilot Certificate – Advanced Operations and 

you must obtain a written

 RPAS Flight Authorization from NAV CANADA,

 by submitting an RPAS Flight Authorization Request.


In addition, all RPA pilots must comply with all applicable legislation, including Canadian Aviation Regulations.

Submitting an RPAS Flight Authorization Request

To submit an RPAS Flight Authorization Request, follow these steps:

  1. Determine the flight information region for your RPA flight. You will need this information for the authorization form. 
  2. Complete and submit the online RPAS​ Flight Authorization Request​
  3. Once submitted, a reference number will be issued and used in any future correspondence relating to this request. The request will be sent to the appropriate NAV CANADA regional RPAS office for review. 

  1. Depending on the complexity of your request, expect a minimum of 48 hours to 14 days for review.  You cannot operate your RPA in controlled airspace unless you receive a written RPAS Flight Authorization from NAV CANADA.​ Failure to comply with legal requirements when flying an RPA, including failure to obtain an RPAS Flight Authorization from NAV CANADA before flying an RPA in controlled airspace, can give rise to serious penalties, including fines and jail time.

  1. Please ensure that you have proof of your RPAS Flight Authorization on hand at all times when flying your RPA.​
​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
[ Modified: Thursday, 30 May 2019, 3:33 PM ]
 
Anyone in the world

Drones have become an increasingly popular tool for industry and government.

Electric utilities use them to inspect transmission lines. Oil companies fly them over pipelines. The Interior Department even deployed them to track lava flows at Hawaii's Kilauea volcano.

But the Department of Homeland Security is warning that drones manufactured by Chinese companies could pose security risks, including that the data they gather could be stolen.

The department sent out an alert on the subject on May 20, and a video on its websitenotes that drones in general pose multiple threats, including "their potential use for terrorism, mass casualty incidents, interference with air traffic, as well as corporate espionage and invasions of privacy."

We could pull information down and upload information on a flying drone. You could also hijack the drone."

Lanier Watkins, cyber-research scientist at Johns Hopkins University

"We're not being paranoid," the video's narrator adds.

Most drones bought in the U.S. are manufactured in China, with most of those drones made by one company, DJI Technology. Lanier Watkins, a cyber-research scientist at Johns Hopkins University's Information Security Institute, said his team discovered vulnerabilities in DJI's drones.

"We could pull information down and upload information on a flying drone," Watkins said. "You could also hijack the drone."

The vulnerabilities meant that "someone who was interested in, you know, where a certain pipeline network was or maybe the vulnerabilities in a power utilities' wiring might be able to access that information," he noted.

DJI offered a bounty for researchers to uncover bugs in its drones, although Walker said Johns Hopkins didn't accept any money.

In a statement, DJI said:

"At DJI, safety is at the core of everything we do, and the security of our technology has been independently verified by the U.S. government and leading U.S. businesses. DJI is leading the industry on this topic and our technology platform has enabled businesses and government agencies to establish best practices for managing their drone data. We give all customers full and complete control over how their data is collected, stored, and transmitted.

"For government and critical infrastructure customers that require additional assurances, we provide drones that do not transfer data to DJI or via the Internet, and our customers can enable all the precautions DHS recommends. Every day, American businesses, first responders, and U.S. government agencies trust DJI drones to help save lives, promote worker safety, and support vital operations, and we take that responsibility very seriously. We are committed to continuously working with our customers and industry and government stakeholders to ensure our technology adheres to all of their requirements."

There are other, more covert, ways that foreign governments could obtain the type of information gathered by drones, said John Villasenor, a fellow at the Brookings Institution who teaches at the University of California, Los Angeles.

"[If] you fly a drone above a pipeline, there's a pretty good chance someone is gonna see it up there," he said, but "a spy satellite just takes a picture from 120 miles up or whatever. Then, of course, no one's going to know what happened."


This is not the first time the U.S. government has expressed concern over the use of Chinese-made drones. In 2017, the U.S. Army barred use of DJI's drones.


Villasenor said the government's concern over Chinese drones "is not new, although the fact that it has surfaced now may or may not be tied to these broader trade tensions which have flared up in recent months."


The Department of Homeland Security's warning about Chinese drones coincides with the Trump administration's campaign against tech manufacturer Huawei, which also coincides with the ongoing trade war between the two countries.

t also comes as officials are warning transit agencies in New York and Washington, D.C., against buying new subway cars made by a Chinese manufacturer.

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., along with the region's other Democratic senators, has introduced legislation prohibiting the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority from buying the Chinese-made cars because of security concerns.

"A rail car might have a whole host of sensors [and] communication tools, and when that equipment is manufactured in China," Warner said, "and when that equipment sometimes can be upgraded on a remote basis in terms of a software upgrade, there are national security implications."

Underlying the tech concerns is the Chinese government's control over all Chinese companies.

"The Communist Party of China now has in their law the ability to interfere and take information from virtually every Chinese company," Warner warned. "And as long as that exists, that provides a whole set of vulnerabilities I think American business has to consider on a going-forward basis."

The bottom line, the Department of Homeland Security said, is that customers should be cautious when buying Chinese technology.

By Brian Naylor   NPR
[ Modified: Wednesday, 29 May 2019, 10:41 AM ]
 
Anyone in the world

DJI, the world’s leader in civilian drones and aerial imaging technology, announced Manifold 2, an ultra-compact onboard supercomputer for DJI drones that enables the next-generation of autonomous aerial robotics solutions. With the additional compute capability of Manifold 2, users can process complex image data onboard the drone and get results immediately and can program drones to fly autonomously while identifying objects and avoiding obstacles.

Manifold 2 expands the use cases of drone technology exponentially by allowing businesses, developers and researchers to build the most advanced autonomous aerial robotics solutions for nearly any industry or task. It is now available for purchase through authorized DJI Enterprise resellers worldwide.

By Press



[ Modified: Wednesday, 29 May 2019, 10:06 AM ]
 
Picture of Bruce McPherson
by Bruce McPherson - Wednesday, 17 April 2019, 2:39 PM
Anyone in the world

By Rémi Schmaltz While most industries have been using modern software solutions for years, the farming industry has been slower to adopt. Most farmers are still relying on paper and ink or at best, make use of spreadsheets and some type of general accounting software.

Why is this, when there are so many different agtech systems available? The answer may be just that – there are so many different agtech systems available.

Farming technology has come far in recent years and there is no longer any reason to shy away from embracing an FMS, as a good FMS will be streamlined and simplified.

And all those agtech systems can be confusing. There are some that provide traceability, others that focus on the growing process, and still others that specialize in crop marketing. Using several systems at once is a time-waster and increases the margin of error. What is needed is a complete farm management system (FMS) in one integrated platform.

A Complete Solution

There are only two ways to improve production: plant more acres of crop or increase the productivity of the land already in use. Embracing and integrating an FMS will enable farmers to achieve necessary production advances required to feed the world while finding efficiencies in productivity, traceability, and environmental stewardship.

Let’s look at some of the things a truly complete FMS should provide:

  • Farm Management – to improve overall performance. This would include things like connectivity with the whole team for more efficient people management, the ability to see crop plans, a way to keep track of inventory and manage equipment records; even offline.
  • Precision Agronomy – to increase yield, from soil testing to customized prescription field maps for seeding, chemical, and fertilizer.
  • Crop Marketing – to grow farmer revenue. The platform should at least provide a custom crop marketing plan, margin and market tracking, and profit tracking and analysis based on the projected yield. Ideally, it would also provide things like market reports, hedge plan tracking, and training in these areas.
  • Integration – to automate data collection. The platform should have numerous connections with sensors, hardware, and other software. The more API’s that the FMS has, the less data the farmer will have to enter and the more powerful the FMS will be for the farm.
  • Service Providers – to allow the integration of trusted third-party service providers and their software. The platform should work with current, trusted service providers while enabling those service providers to be more efficient in the delivery of the services on the farm.
  • Data Ownership – uncertainty around data ownership makes farmers wary about which company to work with. A high-quality, efficient FMS will communicate who owns the data and what ownership really means. Some platforms even revenue share with farms that opt to participate.
  • Understanding of Agriculture – to know the ins and outs. This would include working with a company that has deep domain expertise in agriculture, really understands the challenges on the farm, and are passionate about making agriculture better.
  • Empower the Farm – Farmers know their land the best and the FMS will help simplify insights into actionable decisions.
  • Independence – Farmers want independent advice that is in their best interest and not connected to the sale of other products.

And speaking of training, a good FMS will also include one-on-one expert support and be open to farmer feedback and ideas on how to make the system even better.

The Future of Agriculture

Farming technology has come far in recent years and there is no longer any reason to shy away from embracing an FMS, as a good FMS will be streamlined and simplified. Modern farmers need not be forced to cobble together several systems, each specializing in different things and then try to keep them error-free. And the issue of connectivity on the farm is easily solved, with everyone having their own custom settings, alerts, and notifications.

FMS is an essential tool to help farmers meet market demands. The wealth of information it provides helps them to work smarter not harder, be more decisive and informed, and not left wondering over any component of the crops, business, market, or their employees.
For example, Decisive Farming is dedicated to increasing farmer’s profitability, sustainability, and technology ease-of-use by providing a single integrated farm management platform. Through strategic partnerships with leading distributors across the agriculture value chain like INTL FCStone and DTN, the platform has more than 5 million acres representing 1.5 billion in annual production and is being used on 40 different crop types in North America.

Take a Break from the Farm

Time is the most precious commodity we have. Yet, farming being the labor-intensive endeavor it is, farmers often must put in very long hours. But the right FMS can save valuable hours, freeing farmers up to spend more time on things they enjoy doing when not hard at work. Whether that be hunting, fishing, spending time with the family, or enjoying a beach vacation, everyone needs some R and R in order to recharge the batteries.

While even the most sophisticated, high-tech FMS on the market can’t solve every problem on the farm, utilizing one is a better and more efficient way to run an agricultural operation.

Plus, farmers and their workers can reap a bountiful harvest of benefits with the huge knowledge base, training, and support from the best FMS companies. More work can be done in less time because less time is wasted. From the initial planning to seeding, to market, and everything in between, a quality FMS can juggle it all with confidence.

The farmer can keep abreast of not only everything on the farm but the bottom line as well. With margin and market tracking, hedge plan tracking, market reports, and all things financial, farmers can enter the season with eyes wide open and continue to stay informed and on top of things.

More productivity. More time to enjoy life. Higher profits and peace of mind. The right FMS is a definite win for the farmer.


[ Modified: Wednesday, 17 April 2019, 2:41 PM ]
 
Anyone in the world

On a road trip through Xinjiang in 2012, Peng Bin saw how ageing farmers laboured in vast cotton fields with heavy tanks of pesticides strapped to their backs, spraying the chemicals without any protection.


“I could smell the acrid stench of pesticide from afar and I thought maybe my unmanned aircraft could help,” said Peng, 37, founder and chief executive of XAG, one of China’s biggest makers of agricultural drones. “At least drone spraying would limit the farmers’ exposure to the chemicals.”


It is also more cost-effective, an important consideration for the labour-starved agricultural industry in China. In general, a drone can do the same spraying job in 1/30th the time, and the more challenging the terrain, the more advantage a drone has.

Soon after the trip, Peng focused on producing drones for industrial use, instead of the consumer devices that hobbyists use to take holiday videos. That move proved prescient as demand for pesticide and fertiliser spraying soared with the decline in farm labour. Young people would rather work in factories, or wait tables and clean homes in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, than toil in the fields.


For Peng, his chosen career marks a full circle of sorts for his family. Peng’s parents moved from the countryside to Sanming city in China’s southern Fujian province early on.

Peng himself was born and raised in the city. A computer science graduate from XiDian University in Xian, he worked for Microsoft for two years before starting a business in 2007 making consumer drones. He renamed the company XAG last year.

Boosting agricultural productivity is a top priority for China, which wants to lessen the country’s reliance on food imports. The government has set a target to produce 90 per cent of its own farming equipment by 2020, and the sector is one of the priorities in Beijing’s “Made in China 2025” strategic industrial plan.

Drone pilots in demand as China’s farmers age

Competition in agricultural drones is expected to heat up, with DJI, the world’s biggest maker of commercial drones, also identifying the sector for expansion.

The Shenzhen-based company sees its latest drones, including the Mavic 2 and Agras MG-1, as being squarely aimed at the industrial segment, which accounts for more than half of the global US$9 billion drone market.

bdf0bb9c-5f63-11e9-b745-17e2afcf325c_972x_113631.JPG

A farmer looks at a drone spraying pesticide in his field in Jixian County, north China's Shanxi Province, in 2017. Photo: Xinhua

“One of the key areas for the enterprise business is [the use of drones] in agriculture,” Bill Chen, DJI’s enterprise partnership manager, said in an interview in January. “As the world’s population keeps growing we have to find more hi-tech ways to meet the rising demand for food.”

To stay ahead of the competition, Peng is looking beyond China for markets for his agricultural drones. XAG is now in 22 countries and regions, though those markets remain small in terms of contribution to revenue.

Like the Xinjiang road trip, Peng recently undertook another long drive, this time across the US, to get a first-hand understanding of the market.

It’s official: drone pilots and pro gamers are now proper jobs in China

Last month, Peng flew to Los Angeles with co-founder Justin Gong, rented an Infiniti QX80 SUV and went from the wine country in California’s Napa Valley, through Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. They stopped at Kansas City and St Louis in Missouri before pushing on to New York.

During the eight-day drive, they visited farmers and showed them demo videos of XAG’s drones, like travelling salesmen. Peng said some farmers showed interest and asked where they could buy the drones or send them for repair. One farmer invited them to his land and asked if the drones could monitor the crops and help him save on water, he said.


f3048e08-5f68-11e9-b745-17e2afcf325c_1320x770_113631.jpgThe drone maker is capitalising on China’s drive to boost agricultural productivity as the country seeks to lessen its reliance on food imports. Photo: Handout

“Great technology will benefit people globally no matter how competitive the two countries get with each other,” Peng said, when asked if the US-China trade war featured in his conversations with American farmers.

For now, the US is a small market for XAG, with China still accounting for 90 per cent of its revenue.

It’s official: drone pilots and pro gamers are now proper jobs in China

Besides drones, Peng plans to develop other agricultural technology. XAG is testing driverless mini tractors and robotic arms for picking fruit and tea leaves, and aims to introduce the products in 2021.

The ultimate aim, said Peng, is to reshape farming into a respected profession like medicine or engineering. The average annual disposable income of a rural resident in China was 14,617 yuan (US$2,443), or 37 per cent of a city dweller, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

d9468f3e-5f68-11e9-b745-17e2afcf325c_1320x770_113631.JPGDemand for agricultural drones is rising because of labour shortages in China. Agricultural drones are used for crop monitoring as well as pesticide spraying. Photo: Lea Li

Peng concedes it will take some time before China can erase the stigma of being a farmer in the country.

“Compared with overseas market like the US and Japan, our technology application into agriculture still lags far behind,” he said. “In the US, farmers have better lives than in China, from my observation.”

“Their farmland is well managed with technical equipment. The farmers are well-dressed and speak well. They seem to enjoy their lives more.”

By Celia Chen , South China Morning Post
[ Modified: Tuesday, 16 April 2019, 1:02 PM ]