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For Immediate Release
August 1, 2013
Contact: Laura Wisner
Agriculture Drones To Wage a War on Weeds
Remotely piloted vehicle is the greatest farmhand that’s currently illegal to use
BOULDER, CO - Two Boulder-based businesses are collaborating to develop autonomous
aerial vehicles, more commonly called drones, that can revolutionize the multibillion-dollar
agriculture industry. By identifying weeds by color and shape differences versus desired crop
leaves, farmers could potentially save 80% per acre on herbicide costs. According to the USDA
the average acreage for a Western US farm is over 1500 acres, which would translate to nearly
ten thousand dollars in cost savings to the farmer per crop cycle.
However, the Federal Aviation Administration controls airspace, and drones are currently illegal
for commercial use. InventWorks, Inc, an agile development engineering firm, and Boulder
Labs, Inc, a software development company specializing in image identification, are developing
the precision agriculture technology now in anticipation of revamped FAA regulations. The FAA
is expected to permit general use of drones for agricultural use in time for the 2015 planting
“This drone has incredible potential even to a small-scale farm,” said Tom McKinnon,
InventWorks’ Managing Director. “Farmers are embracing technology for cost savings and to
increase yield and profit. We’re working on this technology now to make it intuitive to use and
value-driven by the time it can be used commercially.”
The four pound, six foot wingspan drone carries multispectral cameras that capture high
resolution, geo-tagged photos every few seconds. The resulting photograph data is transferred
to a ground based PC where it’s merged to create an overall continuous image of a farming
operation. This data is processed using image recognition computer algorithms that can
recognize features as small as individual weeds among the row crops, pinpointing the weed’s
GPS coordinates. Finally, the data are plugged into a tractor’s precision agriculture computer,
allowing herbicide application exactly where required and avoiding excessive cost and
environmental impact. This type of imaging data can also potentially identify pests, fungus, soil
nutrient deficits, and soil moisture issues, minimizing labor hour, fuel and chemical inputs while
maximizing the productivity and sustainability of the land and soil.
“This collaboration with InventWorks gives us an exciting opportunity to apply Boulder Labs
technologies to the growing field of precision agriculture,” said Jim Sears, head of New Product
Development at Boulder Labs. “Giving a farmer a simple user interface to find and eradicate
weeds is a natural extension of our deep experience in image processing and artificial
The value of drones is increasingly recognized outside of the military arena, where the public
was first introduced to them. Tom McKinnon and Jim Sears recently attended an inaugural trade
show in San Francisco relating to the commercial side of this emerging technology. The
International Small Unmanned System Business Exposition clearly demonstrated that all the
technology needed for a precision drone strike on weeds is already available from the
commercial sector.
About InventWorks, Inc
InventWorks, Inc. is a specialized engineering design and fabrication firm offering rapid prototyping,
limited-run manufacturing, and one-off projects. They hold extensive experience in experimental design
and construction, instrumentation, lasers and optics, real-time computer data acquisition, computer
control and modeling. InventWorks is committed to transforming engineering and design project ideas into
reality with professionalism, speed, and creativity. More information can be found on
About Boulder Labs, Inc.
Boulder labs provides full life-cycle prototype to production software development and project
management services. High performance embedded software that focuses on image analysis, artificial
intelligence, device control, computationally intensive analysis and intuitive user interfaces are specialties.
Previous imaging projects have ranged from using UAV drones to find seals in the arctic to searching
1000’s of cruise line photos with facial recognition to assemble passenger albums.