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Aerial Applications lands US Air Force contract for environmental drone project

An unmanned aerial system flies over Camp Bullis, Texas, during a field test Sept. 4, 2019. Photo: US Air Force

Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) developer Aerial Applications has been awarded a contract by the US Air Force to deliver its services for a $3 million innovation project.

The Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center (AFIMSC) project uses drones and machine learning to revolutionize how the Air Force Civil Engineer Center collects data for its environmental mission.

The initiative is powered by a partnership between AFIMSC, Air Force Innovation Hub Network (AFWERX) and Aerial Applications.

The award represents AFIMSC’s first innovation partnership. The innovation office stood up in November 2018, and the drone project was one of the first innovation initiatives the office pursued.

The award, presented to Aerial Applications, brings the amount of government investments to $6 million over four years. Aerial Applications also secured $50 million in funding from industry and venture capitalists, raising the total investment to $56 million.

AFIMSC and Aerial Applications began field testing the project last fall, flying an unmanned aerial system equipped with light detection and ranging, multi-spectral sensors and machine-learning algorithms to map, survey and inventory habitat for the golden-cheeked warbler at Camp Bullis, Texas.

Additional field tests at Camp Bullis are planned for late March. The initial project will expand to include other species and will be applied to more than 20 different uses in at least 12 locations, according to the air force.