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Drone Maxx taking the bird’s eye view

June 27, 2018 GMT

HENRY — As technology speeds ahead, it opens up opportunities for new businesses that were unheard of just a few years ago.

From his farm just north of Henry, Matt Scott is using drone applications to provide local farmers and ranchers with the information they need to improve their operations.

Scott’s company, Drone Maxx, was launched in January.

“I’ve been flying a drone for a couple of years, mostly for fun,” Scott said. “Last winter I decided to get serious about it. My wife knew of my interest so she got me a drone for Christmas.”

As his interest grew, Scott learned more about Federal Aviation Administration regulations from his son, who’s a commercial pilot.

Today’s drones have GPS, anti-collision sensors, live video feed and other features that make flying them very user friendly. They’re also programmed to stop moving when approaching federally restricted airspace, such as around wildlife areas, prisons or power generators.

For the past 10 years, Scott has worked as a mechanic for an ag dealership. As drone technology became more affordable to the public, his first interest was in the area of crop mapping.

For that service, Scott uses drone aerial photos that measure crop stress by identifying how green the crop is. A software application measures the photos and identifies areas where the crops are stressed. Those areas show up as red on the completed digital images.

An agronomist then looks at the red areas to determine the problem, whether it’s lack of moisture or weed or insect infestation. That allows for spot spraying of stressed areas, rather than spraying the entire field.

Photography is a familiar skill for Scott. He attended Chadron State College in the late 1980s and was a news photographer for the student newspaper, The Eagle.

As he became interested in drone technology, Scott expanded his services to include aerial photography and video for real estate.

“You can see things from the air that people never think about,” he said. “Above the ranchers’ property you can see how the corrals are laid out and if they’ve abandoned any equipment and forgotten about it.”

Using GPS, each individual picture is tagged with a specific location. The images can be digitally “stitched” together into a 3D image of a large area.

The 3D image can then be used to create contour maps for a landowner to plan for ditches and other dirt work.

Scott said drones can also help out with surveying. Through imaging, a 3D point cloud map can be generated to help measure specific distances. Surveyors use point maps with their computer drafting applications to identify survey markers, outlines of roads, as well as poles.

Scott said that while he’s new to the market, his services can be valuable to landowners and other companies that need detailed property information.

“People still have misconceptions about drones,” Scott said. “The cameras have a wide-angle lens that’s only effective for exterior pictures. A drone can’t spy on you or see into your house.”

Examples of Scott’s work are available for viewing on his website at dronemaxx.net.

jpurvis@starherald.com