Fund granted to Irish drone technology research

Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan TD today announced funding from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) of €1.8m - with a further €4.5m investment from industry (cash and in-kind) to Dr Tim McCarthy, Maynooth University Department of Computer Science and National Centre for Geocomputation, for a new drone technology initiative known as U-Flyte.

U-Flyte is an SFI Strategic Research Partnership award based at Maynooth University that involves collaboration with partners across the aviation industry, and includes input from Airbus, Irelandia Aviation, Intel and 15 other relevant companies and agencies with an active interest in the development and deployment of drone technology.

Speaking at the launch, Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan TD, said: “The U-Flyte programme will play a hugely important role in developing drone technology for use around the world, and it is using Waterford Airport as a test bed. This highlights Ireland’s ability to ‘punch above its weight’ when it comes to the research and development of science and technology, as well as how quickly ‘Ireland Inc.’ can bring together diverse industry stakeholders to drive progress.”

Margie McCarthy, director of innovation and education at Science Foundation Ireland said the potential societal impact of drone technology spans multiple sectors including agriculture, marine, emergency services, and transportation.

Drone Use In Agriculture
Drones equipped with multi-spectral cameras are used to assess various information such as crop health, storm damage, fertiliser application examination and for research purposes.

At a seminar on the subject in University College Dublin last year, David Kelly, of Capturing a World Ltd, explained the usefulness of such technology.

He said: “We use either RGB (red, green and blue) cameras or multi-spectral cameras that are suitable for determining agricultural indices, such as normalized difference vegetative index (NDVI).

The benefit of these indices is that they can give a quick overview of the condition of a field. This can be interpreted by an agronomist. The data can be used to determine prescriptions for fertiliser applications and so on.

“In France, for instance, this has seen wheat fields show 10-15% increases in yield, when prescriptions have been determined by aerial mapping.”

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