When AgFunderNewslast spoke with agricultural drone technology company LahakX, the company had just met Federal Aviation Administration regulatory requirements and was preparing a spray drone for fields in Monterey, California.
About a year and a half later, the company received a new patent and began a partnership with Aero Systems West (ASW), a U.S.-based drone manufacturer that specializes in heavy-lift equipment.
The partnership comes as LahakX, founded in 2017 and based in Salinas, Calif., began receiving increasing requests from customers to cover more acres and spray more gallons. did.
LahakX specializes in spot spraying with autonomous drone swarms. The company does not manufacture the drones themselves; rather, groups of drones coordinate with each other on tasks and design the logistics of swarming, often without human intervention.
Incorporating ASW's high-payload drones into the equation creates what LahakX CEO and co-founder Eilon Solek calls the “sweet spot” for agricultural spraying drone technology. He calculates that successful spray drone efforts in agriculture will involve both large and small drones working together in swarm operations to effectively cover more cropland.
Through this partnership, ASW will build new drones and LahakX will develop swarm planning and autopilot capabilities. Read-to-Fly products are available to new and existing customers in California.
“Swarming is one way to do that. Heavy-load drones are another way. Through this partnership, we will be able to do both,” said Itzik Turkel, co-founder and CTO of LahakX. says Dr.
Eilon Solek, co-founder and CEO of LahakX. Image credit: LahakX “Things need to be done dramatically differently”
“There's just too much of a gap between drone promise and execution,” Solek told AgFunderNews, adding that the gap is typically measured in “how many gallons or acres.”
“Big marketing statements talk about doing, say, 60 acres per hour, or 50 acres per second. This is based on calculations done in Excel spreadsheets, not in the field. Also, it is based on the assumption that you will be applying two to three gallons per acre, which is a very niche application.”
He said LahakX has learned from customers in Monterey County, Calif., that 2, 3 or even 5 gallons may not be enough.
“You can do a side hustle, you can do a niche application. In some cases, you can also be kind of a 911. But if you really want to build a big business with spray drones, you have to change things up dramatically. is needed.”
Conversely, “having one large drone is not enough. Larger drones primarily only do broadcast spraying. They are too large to perform ultra-precise initial applications. ”
“The reality with spray drones is that the logistics and operations really need to be designed to enable continuous, scalable and robust operations,” he added.
The key is to combine the two, and this is where our partnership with ASW comes into play. Both efforts create a system where larger drones can quickly cover the center of the field while smaller drones move more slowly along the edges.
“You have to be very precise at the edges of the field because there may be adjacent growers or crops. You don’t want drift. You want to cover [the edge] Using smaller drones is more accurate and slower,” Sorek said.
The fleet can be assembled in a variety of configurations, potentially increasing application time and performance across the field. Solek says wildfire prevention is another potential application of this setup.
“People tend to think of swarming as the same drones working together,” he said, adding that LahakX just received patent approval for its technology.
“We want to have a modular approach that allows different types of pesticides, weather conditions, and application requirements to be flexibly addressed, with the flexibility for different drones with different capabilities to work together in a similar way. ”
The BIRD Foundation, a U.S.-Israeli research organization, partially funded the partnership. Non-dilutive funding can amount to up to 50% of the total cost of a project, which includes not only the final product but also licensing and commercialization.
“This is a good boost for both companies,” Solek said, adding that both companies will retain their own intellectual property.
The project will begin in Monterey, where both companies are located and has enough acreage to grow suitable crops such as leafy vegetables and strawberries.
“They are low-canopy crops; [have to] It is heavily sprayed almost all year round. We feel very comfortable in Monterey County as we have a large amount of land and many activities that require this type of solution. ”
He points to another element that both companies consider to be a key element of the partnership: that the final product is manufactured entirely in the United States.
“Dji, XAG and other Chinese companies may run into regulatory hurdles in the future,” he says. “And the agricultural sector recognizes the value of bringing American solutions to the American market.”
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