Name: AeroView International
Funding: AeroView has received about $85,000 in funding and business assistance from Maryland Technology Development Corp. through its Maryland Technology Partnership for Innovation and Maryland Technology Transfer Fund programs.
Big idea: AeroView uses unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for precision agriculture and environmental scanning. The UAVs fly over a field and take pictures of crops in infrared and visible-light frequencies. The pictures are combined into a color graphic that shows how the crops are growing across the field and pinpoints areas of blight. Based on that graphical representation, AeroView creates a set of instructions for a variable rate applicator, the fertilizing machine that trolls through fields dishing out fertilizer, so farmers can even out the growth rates of their crops. The UAVs also can be used to measure moisture levels in soil, the amount of plant life, or runoff caused by overfertilization or animals.
How it works: AeroView's current UAV, the Vector P, has a wingspan of 10 feet. It can fly at less than 500 feet and can be launched from a field by an operator who controls the flight. The company is creating smaller UAVs, including one that is launched with a slingshot and another that is launched off of rails from the back of a pickup truck. While a satellite or a manned aircraft can be stymied by bad weather, AeroView's UAVs can fly beneath the clouds or in the rain, chief executive Lanny Herron said. UAVs also can take more detailed pictures than a satellite or an airplane, he said.
Where the idea was hatched: AeroView is a spinoff of Intellitech Microsystems, a Bowie manufacturer of robotic systems that developed UAVs for homeland security and environmental uses. The Vector P was designed by IntelliTech.
Customers: The company initially plans to rent UAV units to crop consultants or fertilizer companies. It intends eventually to partner with large farmers and agricultural consultants, splitting the cost of maintaining the UAV and its profits. In five years, Herron hopes to have several hundred AgScanners, or UAV agricultural scanners, in use across the country.
Price: AeroView charges $1 to $1.50 per acre, compared with $1.50 to $2 per acre by a manned-aircraft service, Herron said.
Who's in charge: Herron; Dave Yoel, chief marketing officer; Bill Kozel, marketing strategist; Steve Fujikawa, engineer and designer; and Farshad Khorrami, engineer and designer. Ray Hunt is the company's researcher at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center.
Web site: www.aeroviewinternational.com
Partners: Intellitech Microsystems, Maryland Technology Development Corp., Beltsville Agricultural Research Center.
Quote: "For 10 thousand years in agriculture people have gone out and looked at the fields. But when the fields get big, it gets harder and harder to do that," Herron said.
-- Andrea Caumont