Pioneering ‘autonomous technology’ study underway

14 February 2018

Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) and the Aerodyne Group will partner in a pioneering study into the role of autonomous drones and sensors within the Australian red meat and livestock industry.

The aim is to develop solutions that run as a ‘silent service’ – removing the need for producers to manually control drones and other automated sensors to capture, analyse and report on-farm data.

Following extensive industry advice, MLA and Aerodyne have developed nine focal points for the first program of works, which include:

  1. Fence Monitoring – Autonomous sensing and software to identify and categorise damage.
  2. Herd Location – Developing algorithms to measure herd behaviour, distribution and movements.
  3. Bull Tagging - Utilising ‘Smart’ tags to ascertain bull location in relation to a herd.
  4. Weed Location – Autonomous sensing to identify weeds (particularly those hazardous to cattle), and software algorithms to provide advanced analytics and prescribed preventative data.
  5. Feral Control – Identification and analysis of pests and feral animals.
  6. Feedbase Monitoring – Developing algorithms to sense and categorise ground coverage and produce detailed pasture analytics and reports.
  7. Water Monitoring – Develop sensors and algorithms to autonomously measure tanks, troughs, rivers and dams. Identify dead stock, water diseases and bogged animals.
  8. Feedlot – A reporting solution which can make suggestions for water time, feed time, isolation and growth factors.
  9. Tagless ID – A system for reliable identification of non-tagged animals.

The $5.1 million collaboration combines Aerodyne’s award-winning innovative drone-based enterprise solutions with the industry insight and producer networks of MLA and funded through MLA Donor Company (MDC).

The two-year project forms part of MLA’s strategy to develop and implement fully autonomous drones and other unmanned vehicle solutions for the benefit of the Australian red meat and livestock industry. It will look at the role of automation and value-chain technologies in supporting livestock health, crop management, farm productivity and real-time weather sensing.

In a market worth over $18 billion nationally, Aerodyne believe the red meat industry is poised to embrace the latest wave of advances in automation and connectivity. Their expertise in unmanned systems, IoT devices and cloud-based reporting solutions has led to the development of iLAMS (intelligent Livestock and Asset Management System).
 
MLA General Manager - Research, Development & Innovation, Sean Starling, said MLA has three clear roles in the development and deployment of autonomous systems for the red meat industry. 
 
“Firstly, we want to demonstrate what autonomous systems can be used for in the red meat and livestock industry,” Mr Starling said.
 
“Secondly, we want to develop platforms, sensors and algorithms, to ensure that when all of these components are combined they offer a fully autonomous ‘silent service’ for red meat producers.
 
“Having producers at the controls of unmanned vehicles is not viable or valuable for red meat producers in the long-term, and so we are working with Aerodyne to develop new solutions that will help ensure our red meat industry is profitable, sustainable and globally competitive.”

Aerodyne CEO, Kamarul A, said: “Aerodyne are delighted to announce our involvement in this innovative and disruptive project. Integrating drones and other autonomous technology into a smart, connected network of sensors gives us the opportunity to completely change the way that large-scale livestock and agriculture operations are managed.
 
“Australia is the ideal testing ground to develop new systems and build on the lessons that Aerodyne has learned from our extensive experience in providing commercial drone solutions. We look forward to working with MLA and its members at such an exciting time for both our industries.”

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