Businesses take flight: Firms tap technology to offer aerial imaging services

Businesses take flight: Firms tap technology to offer aerial imaging services
Ben Skogen, owner of  AeroScout, demonstrates the use of an unmanned aerial vehicle. The Grand Valley company uses emerging technology to offer services to customers in the agriculture, construction, energy and real estate sectors. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)
Ben Skogen, owner of AeroScout, demonstrates the use of an unmanned aerial vehicle. The Grand Valley company uses emerging technology to offer services to customers in the agriculture, construction, energy and real estate sectors. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Ben Skogen brings to his business a background in technology both as a former Air Force technician who worked on aircraft electronics and, subsequently, a software developer.

Skogen believes it’s a fitting combination in running a business that uses an unmanned aerial vehicle and computer software to provide a range of services.

Speaking of combinations, UAVs and software can perform a variety of tasks more quickly and less expensively, in turn offering customers an ample return on their investments, Skogen says. But it’s crucial to keep pace with changing technology, he adds. “Staying on top of this is important because it delivers a better end product to the user.”

Skogen operates AeroScout, a Grand Valley business that serves customers in a variety of industries. Skogen focuses, though, on what his firm can do for the agriculture and energy sectors — in particular monitoring crop health and detecting and addressing problems. An infrared camera mounted on his UAV makes it possible to spot problems before they’re visible to the naked eye, he says.

AeroScout provides aerial photographs, videos and three-dimensional renderings to market real estate.

AeroScout also provides aerial inspections of construction projects that includes photos, videos and three-dimensional models.

In addition, the company uses UAVs to inspect and monitor oil and natural gas pipelines and railroads.

Skogen said he’s particularly excited about what AeroScout can offer agricultural producers.

Visible and infrared cameras mounted on his SUVs offer high-resolution images and information that can be used to monitor crops and detect problems, he says. Infrared images offer a way to track plant vigor over a growing season as well as identify lack of vigor that could be related to everything from a lack of water or fertilizer or pressure from insects and weeds.

“A dead spot in a field stands out like a sore thumb,” he says.

Skogen says he works with Cropworx to offer recommendations to address problems. That information is available as written reports or can be accessed online. The information also can used in conjunction with automated farming machinery — to apply more fertilizer in a given area, for example.

The accuracy of UAV flights and the information they produce makes it easy to pinpoint exact locations in a field, Skogen says.

Aerial imagery also makes it easier to quantify crop damage and file insurance claims, he adds.

AeroScout offers a good return on the investment in its services, Skogens says, in helping producers increase yields and decrease such expenses as fertilizer and the fuel required for various operations.

Providing those services with UAVs offers an advantage over manned flights wih aircraft or satellite imagery, he says, including better imagery at a lower cost and with quicker results. Affordable services are available whether a customer needs a single flight ot a package of flights, he adds.

UAVs also offer advantages in other applications, Skogen says, whether it’s inspecting pipelines in remote locations or assessing a railroad accident where safety remains a concern.

Ultimately, UAVs and the businesses that use them offer ways to increase efficiency and improve lives, Skogen says.

For more information about AeroScout, call 319-8025 or visit www.aeroscout.io.