Drones are Bringing the Internet to Rural Farmers in Sicily

Drones are Bringing the Internet to Rural Farmers in Sicily

Agricultural drones could help predict crop patterns

Macala Wright
  • 25 january 2016

Italian-based Catanese R&D startup Heli-Lab has launched a drone project that features the use of drones to bring the Internet to areas in Sicily where there is no connection. The remote-controlled drones are employed for a wide range of activities, namely for agricultural, industrial and insurance purposes.

The tasks delegated to the drones are different and increase with the ability to equip the APR-specific technology. On the side, the drones are also transformed into real PCs and hot spots, thus collecting a large amount of data in flight and transferring them to the cloud, as well as serving as Internet Access Points.

Giuseppe Spallina, co-founder of Heli-Lab said,

“Since the drone is offline the network can also become a hot spot, or a router that allows those who come to earth to exploit the band. A useful way to not leave completely isolated areas affected by natural disasters and that can also be used by rescue workers of the first hour and by the Civil Defence.”

As I’ve previously written, the use of drones for agriculture and humanitarian efforts, drones used in this capacity further enable better food and manufacturing processes to develop. From the data gathered from drones, farmers can now start to understand and leverage that information in order to produce food more efficiently. According to the company, in agriculture, the use of Helio drones offers many benefits in the assessment of the health status of crops, including:

  • precision measurement of agriculture with cameras and infrared multispectral;
  • study and monitoring of the state of force of biomass, forest and agricultural;
  • analysis, forecasting, prevention and monitoring of the harvest;
  • treatments with pesticides and fungicides shedding DRONI high payload

The cumulative data gathered and provided by drones can then be built into softwares that visualize patterns and trends in the soil; which ultimately helps farmers understand what is happening beneath the ground so they can compensate for any deficiencies their crops have. Being able to store that data in the cloud allows them to model patterns past and present over a region or an entire area and make future predictions on crop cycles.

The American Farm Bureau Federation estimates farmers’ return-on-investment alone could be $12 per acre for corn and $2 to $3 per acre for soybeans and wheat for the efficiencies that drones provide. The Helio-Lab drone helps Italian farmers achieve what the AFAB predicts stateside. The Internet installed on the Helio drone could allow farmers to connect with one another, assisting in the sharing of ag data and information.


In the future, these devices could possibly even create agribusiness troubleshooting communities based on simple access points built within the vary machines they’re using. Wouldn’t it be great to share information and get knowledge from fellow farmers? What’s more, given its current funding model, this could also enable Helio-Lab to achieve a more cost-effective agridrone data solution than what’s currently on the U.S. market from Agribotix at $11,900 per year for use. While you may have crop efficiencies and increase your profit, a price tag like that may limit access to many farmers who rely on subsidies worldwide just keep the lights on.



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