Phil Castle, The Business Times
Mike Nevins has worked on the cutting edge of technology before — he began his career at the beginning of the revolution in personal computing, in fact.
Nonetheless, Nevins admits he has no idea where the growing use of unmanned aerial vehicles will lead or what the future holds for an industry for which the sky is literally the limit. “I don’t have enough imagination to figure how they’re going to use these things.”
For now, Nevins prefers to focus on what he does know, and that’s the varied services his UAV and his business, MountainSky Aerial, offers. That’s plenty — from taking aerial photographs and videos to assessing and monitoring crops and golf courses.
Working with FarmSolutions, an agricultural technology company, Nevins turns data into information and recommendations about irrigation, fertilizer and other management issues that help growers increase yields and decreases costs. “Then it becomes a value proposition,” he says.
MountainSky Aerial is the 12th business for Nevins, a serial entrepreneur who also worked for 10 years for the Grand Junction Police Department. Nevins previously operated a computer forensic investigations firm, computer software security business and outdoor kitchen company, among other ventures.
Nevins says launching MountainSky Aerial offered another chance to put his technical background to work — along with scratching an entreprenurial itch. “I’v always loved starting something from scratch and making it do something.”
His research also revealed a potential business opportunity — particularly for an area with an abundance of agricultural production that ranges from food crops to orchards to vineyards. “The more I dug, the more excited I got,” Nevin says.
MountainSky Aerial serves four markets, Nevins says, in providing photographs and videos to market real estate and monitoring progress on construction sites. Using an infrared camera enables the firm to also serve agricultural producers and golf courses.
Plants reflect infrared light to varying degrees that depend on how vigorously they’re growing, Nevins says. That makes it possible to detect plants that aren’t receiving enough water or fertilizer or experience stress from insects or weeds. The same thing holds true for the turf on golf courses.
Nevins plots a flight for his UAV over a construction site, field or golf course that compiles information in the best way. Since his UAV connects with global positioning system satellites to accurately determine its position, the device completes the flight autonomously. After the flight, computer software stitches together the data to create two-dimensional maps and even render three-dimensional images, he says.
Working with FarmSolutions, Nevins says he can produce reports that assess a field, orchard, vineyard or golf course and recommend actions — usually within a day
Farmers and golf course managers can use that information to address a problem, he says — applying additional fertilizer or repairing a broken sprinkler head, for example. Aerial imagery also can be used to assess crop damage in filing claims for insurance. “We’re providing an end-to-end solution.”
The ultimate goal, he says, is to supply information that helps customers increase earnings and reduce costs. “We make it usable to them so they can make more money.”
Given the increasing use of UAVs — and increasing diversity of what they’re used for — Nevins says the ramifications of the technology could prove profound But like the services his business provides, he believes the technology also will prove beneficial.
For more information about MountainSky Aerial, call 623-5317 or visit the website at www.mountainskyaerial.com.