Golf Course Management

MAR 2017

Golf Course Management magazine is dedicated to advancing the golf course superintendent profession and helping GCSAA members achieve career success.

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62 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 03.17 adopter customers were expected. "By April (2017), we'll roll out a more complete system that will have moisture maps, not just temper - ature maps. We should be able to detect fun- gal infections from the day-to-day maps, so we can shoot customers email alerts telling them they need to act." "Ultimately," says John Kaminski, Ph.D., director of the golf turfgrass management pro - gram at Penn State and the company's chief agronomic officer, "here's where I'd like to see it go: These maps will be able to identify areas of disease infestation and dry spots, then inte - grate that info with GPS-driven sprayers and other units. They're not quite there yet. But as we collect more information from the imagery data, we'll start building those smart mecha - nisms into the systems. "I think the strength in this approach is that flights are routinely done, on a daily basis, where you look at an entire week's photogra - phy and see how things are changing," Ka- minski continues. "We have moisture meters that keep track of that, but to do it aerially and hit the play button to see areas where pat - terns start to occur? Near term, that's a huge benefit. You will see things start to go wrong and respond way prior to what's visible on the ground. Ultimately, the superintendent will be able to set his points and tell the system, 'Alert me if the temperature gets above this level.' That's a big deal." At the golf course itself, the system resides in a box about 3 feet square. Each morning, the top of this box opens wide — like a pod housing some alien being — and the drone (measuring 2 feet square) fires up. Once aloft, it follows the GPS-determined path over the course footprint. The four electric motors are essentially inaudible above 150 feet. At the recommended flight altitude of between 200 and 300 feet, it's a mere speck in the sky. When its appointed rounds are finished, the drone performs a precision landing in the box, the pod doors close, and it rests until the next morning's flight. Meanwhile, all the information gathered from its various multi-spectral cameras is uploaded to an in - ternet cloud service, where it is processed and made available to the superintendent but also scrubbed by the company's software to find changes and issues. Sorting legal matters The practicalities of this system would seem awfully futuristic if they weren't already in operation at test sites like Victoria GC. Be - cause daily drone flights are commanded re- motely from GreenSight's headquarters, its customer courses must have the requisite an - tennae. GreenSight supplied the antenna — "basically the same large antenna used for our irrigation system," says Robertson, who hired an electrician to install it, along with the cable that runs from the maintenance complex roof down into the office. It was done in two hours. GreenSight's team arrived shortly thereaf - ter, in early July, with a proprietary base trans- ceiver box that both sends info to the cloud and pulls it back down. This cable-box-sized unit, containing the required radios and communi - cations gear, lives in the office Robertson shares with his assistant and irrigation technicians. Robertson was GreenSight Agronomics' first North American user. "That first week in July, they did some programming here, on-site, installed the box and instructed us regarding how to take over control of the drone if necessary," Robertson explains. "We have a commuter plane service and Helijet operating nearby. In Canada, in that situation so close to an airport or flight path, we have to stay below 200 feet and be able to take control of the drone at any time." The drone has been quite an attraction at Victoria GC, but Robertson has scheduled its daily flights for early in the morning so he and his team can focus on the task at hand.

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