CHS updates

Firsthand look at new drone technologies

People looking at a drone, with the CHS logo on a screen in the background

Visitors to the Innovation Experience at the CHS Annual Meeting learned how CHS is using autonomous drone technology to improve productivity, efficiency and safety.

Dec 01, 2022

At the 2022 CHS Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, Minn., attendees are getting an up-close view of how CHS is using new drone technologies to advance productivity, increase efficiency and improve safety. 

The Innovation Experience, open today and tomorrow at the meeting, showcases the ways autonomous drone technology is adding value to the CHS cooperative system, ranging from technology that’s currently being deployed to capabilities that are still being explored. 

“Drones are really nothing new, but when they’re paired with analytics and machine learning, CHS can make better decisions faster and with more accuracy,” says Heidi St. Clair, director of supply chain automation.

Crop scouting
Drones collect important data from fields throughout the growing season – for example, corn population counts and crop health assessments. This data gives farmers insights that help them be more efficient with nutrient and crop protection applications.  

Facility inspections
Three-dimensional “reality capture” models help identify and monitor structural deficiencies at various facilities. Facility managers can view real-time data and compile data over time to create a record of the facility’s structural history. Using infrared technology, drones also conduct safe and efficient inspections inside grain elevators and other storage structures. This helps ensure structural health in hard-to-reach spaces that aren’t visible with a manual inspection. At CHS, autonomous drone technology has been used to inspect concrete silos, fuel tanks, grain elevators and fertilizer sheds.

Using LiDar technology (a combination of 3-D scanning and laser scanning that creates high-resolution maps), drones compile precise and accurate readings of the volume of silage and other materials. These readings, often conducted on a feed lot or other storage facility, help measure inventory like feed, fertilizer or grain. This creates a safer and significantly faster process.

Thermal imaging
Drones use temperature readings to generate thermal image maps that help identify current or potential problems at facilities – for example, an overheated bearing. This leads to early detection of underlying problems that are often not detectable in manual inspections. 

Field inventory
Autonomous technology increases accuracy and speed for counting cattle or rail cars, allowing on-demand monitoring of livestock or vehicles during transit.