AgEagle ventures into military equipment, advanced robotics fields
By DRONELIFE Features Editor Jim Magill
AgEagle (NYSE:UAVS), a company that started its commercial life producing drones and software for the agricultural market, has evolved into a company that produces “flying robots,” across a broad spectrum of applications, both civilian and military.
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Recently, the company announced that sales of its NDAA-compliant eBee TAC Unmanned Aerial System have increased substantially with shipments to both U.S. and NATO forces in the United States and Europe. The news follows the March announcement by the Department of Defense’s Defense Innovation Unit that it was adding the eBee TAC to its list of drones approved for DOD use, the first drone to be added as part of the Blue sUAS 2.0 project.
In another recent announcement, AgEagle said it was adding enhanced technological features and capabilities to its Measure Ground Control software package, designed to automate flight management systems and manage drone programs regardless of the manufacturer or model of drone used.
“AgEagle has a long history in the drone space … particularly in the agricultural drone space,” said Barrett Mooney, AgEagle’s CEO. “It has really grown into something that’s much, much bigger than that. It’s grown into an actual robotics play.”
Mooney said that in recent months, AgEagle has assembled a team of 70- plus engineers, about half its employee base, to develop a wide variety of software products, both drone-based and non-drone based, that provide solutions across a wide area of potential applications.
“We’ve made these things into flying robots,” he said. “And a lot of the skills we’ve learned translate to ground robots, and translate to fixed-position robots.”
In the case of its eBee TAC system, Mooney said the military version, developed by AgEagle subsidiary senseFly, sprang from design ideas originally developed for the commercial market.
“We optimized a drone for price sensitivity, for commercial functionality and for resilience so that it was robust,” he said. This experience proved invaluable in designing a system that fit within the parameter set by the Defense Department for its drone system needs.
“We actually worked backwards into the government offering and said, ‘Oh, well actually what you need is something that is robust, that can be rebuilt on site, and that has a closed-loop drone-guidance and control system,’” Mooney said,
The eBee TAC system, which is currently being tested and deployed by U.S. and NATO forces, could ultimately play a part in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, although Mooney was quick to establish some ambiguity on that point.
“To my knowledge, I can’t speak and say yes or no for security reasons,” he said. The software that enables the eBee TAC drones to function is designed to be less penetrable to potential adversaries than that of standard commercial drones.
“I don’t want to expose the information that I do have. That would put in jeopardy the forces that are using the tools,” Mooney said. “But the idea behind it is, those NATO forces are deploying in the forward areas and conflict zones where they can be the most useful.”
Mooney said the development of AgEagle’s Measure Ground Control system represents another example of the strides the company has made in developing advanced robotics systems. The software system is built to provide drones with the mapping parameters under which they fly, regardless of the make or model of drone.
“The Measure Ground Control platform is AgEagle’s answer to that market need for commercial enterprises that have a variety of drone hardware; whether you’re flying a senseFly eBee, or whether you’re flying a Parrot Anafi, or whether you’re flying a DJI Matrice 300,” he said. “We want to have a control platform that handles all of those drone flight hardware components and their associated payloads.”
Regardless of what drone hardware they’re employing, users of the Measure Ground Control system are able to use the platform to set the parameters for how they want to capture their data.
For example, Mooney said, the Measure Ground Control system can be used in conjunction with hardware developed by AgEagle’s subsidiaries, such as MicaSense multispectral sensors, to capture and interpret data. The sensors can capture images registering in several bands across the light spectrum, including thermal and near-infrared.
“We’re actually getting a feed that is telling us information that we can’t see with the naked eye by varying these wavelengths of light,” he said. “The Measure Ground Control software actually interprets that data and creates vegetation indices, creates different metrics that can be used on the software processing platform, stitches it all together, and then presents that information back to the user.”
With forays into the military space and into the software development and advanced robotics arenas, AgEagle may seem to be straying far from its agricultural roots, but Moony said the company’s journey parallels that of the greater drone industry as it matures and becomes more vertically integrated.
“These things may seem a bit divergent, but really they all stem from the same multifunctional core,” he said.
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Jim Magill is a Houston-based writer with almost a quarter-century of experience covering technical and economic developments in the oil and gas industry. After retiring in December 2019 as a senior editor with S&P Global Platts, Jim began writing about emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, robots and drones, and the ways in which they’re contributing to our society. In addition to DroneLife, Jim is a contributor to Forbes.com and his work has appeared in the Houston Chronicle, U.S. News & World Report, and Unmanned Systems, a publication of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.
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