Australian firm working with Civil Aviation authorities to introduce Israeli-made UAV to the outback.
You may not have heard of Ninox Robotics yet, but the company is in the midst of bringing an Australian-first drione service to farmers, government agencies, and firefighters.
The company has been engaging in drone trials of its UAVs in country Queensland and New South Wales, in a number of challenging scenarios. The Bluebird Aerosystems-made UAV, which boasts a nearly three-meter wingspan and a dual-camera system for visual and thermal siting, were tasked with picking out two dogs from a herd of sheep, finding a simulated lost individual, tracking a fire, and finding wild boars and directing a sharpshooter to their location to eliminate the pests.
What makes Ninox’s UAV program unique is that the company has worked closely with the Civil Aviation authority to enable to operate outside of normal civilian frameworks. Ninox systems can operate at heights of up to 400 meters, and out of direct line of site, in both manual and autonomous modes. They are also night-capable, and can stay aloft for up to four hours at a time at a speed of 120km/h.
“Australian landholders and managers have been struggling against the problem of invasive pest species for decades, including feral dogs, pigs, deer and rabbits,” said Ninox MD Marcus Erlich in today’s release. “The issue has caused cumulatively billions of dollars in damages and lost revenue, as well as significant destruction to the country’s unique biodiversity. With the application of UAVs, we have a new weapon in this fight, which will provide unparalleled effectiveness in pest detection and enhance existing control techniques. It’s a quantum leap over any of the current pest intelligence gathering methods currently available.”
At a launch event in Sydney, he also went into greater lenght about how the service will eventually work.
For now, Ninox does not own any of its own drones, but is working closely with Bluebird Systems during the trials. Once the UAVs are approved, Marcus envisages starting out with a single team equipped with three UAVs; a typical sorty of around four hours will cost farmes and government agencies roughly $3000. “Given the losses in the farming sector alone to things like wild dogs, we consider this to be an affordable investment on the behalf of farmers,” he said. As the service expands, more teams and drones will be deployed.
Ninox plans to have its drones up and flying before the end of the year.
One of the UAVs was shown at today’s event, and it’s an impressive piece of military-grade engineering, with a couple of coats of red and white paint and some strobes to make it more visible in the civilian field. It’s powered by a single prop, and launches via what is effectively a giant slingshot-style catapult. Landing is achieved via a parachute, and and airbag that deploys to protect the drones on landing.