North Dakota UAV business grows


By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — The UAV industry continues to grow and evolve, and Field of View is growing and evolving with it.

New regulations for unmanned aerial vehicles proposed in February by the Federal Aviation Administration “are a breath of fresh air,” says David Dvorak, CEO of Grand Forks, N.D.-based Field of View. “They provide our industry with more confidence that this is going to happen. People are finally starting to invest in the technology, which is good for us.”

The company, which he launched in 2010, seeks to “bridge the gap between unmanned aircraft and precision agriculture,” as the company’s website puts it.

By all accounts, the use of UAVs, also known as drones and unmanned aircraft systems, can be a big plus in agriculture and other industries. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International estimates easing current restrictions of UAVs would create 70,000 jobs and generate $13.6 billion in economic impact within three years in the U.S.

The FAA’s new proposal, which could be enacted by the fall of 2016, would pave the way for widespread commercial use of drones weighing fewer than 55 pounds. The FAA wants to balance the economic value of commercial use against the safety risk.

“The rule, as proposed, would seem to be good for agriculture,” Dvorak says. “So the regulatory side seems to be falling into place at last.”

Field of View’s flagship product, GeoSnap, generally has drawn more interest overseas because other countries have fewer restrictions on air space. Now, with the FAA proposal, domestic interest is picking up.

GeoSnap is an add-on device for multispectral cameras mounted on either manned or unmanned aircraft. Such cameras capture images in the red, green and near-infrared bands, allowing users to visualize plant stress better than they can with most other camera systems, Dvorak says.

GeoSnap takes images captured by the multispectral camera and maps them with real-world coordinates, a process known as georeferencing. That allows users to know the aerial images’ exact location on the ground.

Field of View recently came out with a less expensive version of GeoSnap, known as GeoSnap Express, “that will be useful for some of our newer customers,” Dvorak says. “Sometimes you just want to try it (the technology), and this is a really good system to help people get up and going with it.”

GeoSnap Express costs $1,450 or $1,950, depending on the model. GeoSnap Pro, the original version, costs $7,000 or $9,000, depending on the model.

Field of View also is offering a new product that involves thermal payloads.

“We’re able to map vegetation temperature across the field, which will help give us an indication of where water stress might be and to detect where plants get sick,” Dvorak says.

And Field of View has begun working with Minneapolis-based PowerOfGround to offer image processing services. For more information, visit

“Some people want to do that (image processing) themselves,” Dvorak says. “Others want somebody to do it for them.”

Dvorak grew up in St. Cloud, Minn., and came to the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks to study engineering. At UND, he developed a special interest in the use of unmanned aircraft and multispectral cameras in precision agriculture.

He and another company employee work in Grand Forks. A third, an engineer, works in California. Field of View uses a Fargo, N.D., company for its international marketing.

“Good things are happening in our industry,” Dvorak says. “And we see that continuing.”

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