Florian Seibel and his team at Munich-based Quantum Systems worked hard to make it to the finals of the UAE Drones for Good Award with their Quantum VRT, a Transition UAV drone. The drone is specifically designed for civilian and agricultural use, allowing detailed monitoring and evaluation of crop conditions.
It all started four years ago when they realised that using copter systems for agricultural monitoring was not efficient, due to their short flight times and the amount of energy required to keep them in the air.
“It is a lot more efficient to fly like an airplane, but then you would need a take-off and landing strip,” said Seibel. “By combining two wings and the helicopter system we created the Transition.”
Quantum VRT allows farmers to adopt precise fertilisation strategies combining accurate flight planning software with the ability to evaluate crop conditions. By using this information, farmers can apply the exact amounts of water and fertilisers required. Compared to copters, the drone can cover 200 times the area with a range of more than 500 kilometres. In short, it flies longer than any copter system out there.
Seibel, now 35, studied air and space engineering in Germany and then served in the air force as a helicopter pilot for 10 years. He started developing drones at university while doing his Ph.D programme. It took three years of research before he set out to form a start-up with four other students. Thanks to government funding, they were able to build a prototype, apply for a patent and finally get their drone into the competition.
“What makes it special is that we can take off like a helicopter and transition into a fast forward flight and fly like a normal plane. This needs a lot less energy if we stay in helicopter mode, and if we have wings to carry all the weight it makes it superior to everything on the market,” said Seibel.
Quantum VRT can fly at a speed of 100 kilometres an hour, with flight times of up to four hours compared to 15 minutes for a normal copter.
“The benefits to agriculture is that it can cover large areas so it makes sense to use it. At the moment they use outdated copter systems that do not cover large areas,” he said.
“It has a special camera on board to determine nutrition and fertilisation levels so we can save on fertiliser, increase crop yield and reduce pollution of ground water.”
At the moment, Quantum Systems is selling the product to research labs and needs about a year to get the full-service product ready for the market. Interest has been increasing, with calls from entities in Malaysia, Brazil, Chile and others. There has also been interest in acquiring the product.
“We want to keep it to produce more intellectual property and make it a complete product so we can raise our value,” he said. “We had been offered 12 million euros and decided against it because we believe the market value is worth more than that. We decided to keep developing and growing.”