Air Tractor, a major manufacturer of ag aircraft, has moved into unmanned aerial systems by acquiring Hangar 78 UAV and its flagship aircraft, the Yield Defender.
The move into an unmanned aerial system (UAS) “will create the foundation of Air Tractor’s development and visionary integration of unmanned technology to complement its core agricultural and firefighting aircraft lines,” according to a company press release.
“We have done our research, and it’s clear that aggressively investing and further developing unmanned aerial systems into agriculture will enable Air Tractor to remain an industry leader and provide the latest technology to ag producers as UAS capabilities mature and are integrated into the industry,” said Jim Hirsch, president of Air Tractor, which is based in Olney, Texas.
In tandem with the purchase, former Hangar 78 UAV Managing Partner, Wes Hall has been appointed Vice President of UAS Technologies at Air Tractor.
“We are very passionate about the vision and extremely proud to join the Air Tractor family,” said Hall. “This acquisition allows us to widen our engineering expertise, reach global markets, offer cutting edge technology, and expand our customer support solutions.”
“The Yield Defender provides immediate solutions and implementation of a broad spectrum of UAS capabilities to include, but not limited to mapping, analysis, and thermal imaging,” the release noted. “Air Tractor’s diversification and expansion of its product line will position the company to take advantage of the emerging UAS market and growth, which are predicted to exceed $82 billion by 2025 (based on AUVSI Economic Report in 2013).”
Air Tractor produces a line of 9 aircraft that includes 400, 500, 600 and 800-gallon capacity airplanes powered by Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6 turbine engines. They are used for agricultural purposes, fire fighting, narcotic crop eradication, fuel hauling, fighting locust plagues and cleaning up oil spills in coastal waters. The company’s geographic marketing includes the Americas, Australia, Indonesia, China, Spain, Italy, Croatia and countries in Africa.