Maverick Drone Systems says its tech makes work easier for farmers and safer for first responders.
SAVAGE, Minn. — The latest technology is “taking off” from a Savage-based business and it's being used for everything from agriculture to public safety.
Then again, some of it’s just for fun.
The Unitree Go1, for example, is a robotic dog that can roll over, follow humans, climb stairs and even dance. With cameras for eyes, the furless pups are manufactured in China and are sold locally at Maverick Drone Systems for around $4,500.
As their name suggests, Maverick Drone Systems also sell drones. Agriculture sales representative Jay Sorg says their agricultural drones are making work more efficient for farmers.
“I grew up on a dairy farm in Hastings, Minnesota, and I still farm with my dad,” Sorg said. "So with farmers, say we get an inch of rain and you want to apply fungicide to go out there with a wheel, a wheeled machine, you don't want to be on that field when it's wet. So with this drone, you don't have to be in the field. You're above the field."
Sorg says the drones can also save farmers money.
"Doing this yourself, versus paying a helicopter or plane to do your air application or hiring a ground rig from a co-op to do it, this machine pays for itself after you applicate 4,000 acres of fungicide,” he said. "We've had quite a few customers. You know, they buy one and they do their own, and then all of a sudden, they're doing their neighbor’s and so it's an opportunity for them to branch out and offer services to the community."
The agricultural drones are in high demand. Their latest shipment brought 40 boxes of the newest model to the store.
"These weigh about 60, 75 pounds with the battery in them, empty, and then their max takeoff weight is 190 pounds,” Sorg said. "They treat you just like a crop duster, the FAA does, because you are technically an aircraft in the air."
Maverick stocks replacement parts in store, with plans to offer repairs in the future. They already offer commercial drone repairs.
In addition to farmers, first responders are customers. Specifically, police departments are purchasing tactical drones.
“Pretty much all of the metro is using it now,” said Tony Caspers, the company's new public safety director. “St. Paul Police just came on board.”
“I retired just recently with 32 years and I served in the Minneapolis Police Department,” Caspers said. "The biggest thing with the drones is de-escalation, right? Instead of putting a police officer that's armed in front of somebody that's, you know, having a really bad day, they can come in with the drone.
"The other thing on this is also just efficiency of our job,” he continued. “You can actually map a crime scene down to the centimeter. So we're no longer running tape measures and spending hours on a scene. We can take this out of the car crash, we can map and 3D map and print the whole car crash within 5 minutes instead of closing a freeway down for hours."
And it turns out the robotic dog isn't all play.
"It ranges from entry-level all the way up to tactical,” Salinas explained.
The tactical version can scan buildings like schools and memorize layouts, creating a ready-to-go map that could help during emergencies.
"So the robot dog … that's going to be more inside and controlled environments where you can't maybe fly,” Caspers said. "Just set the dog up and let it monitor something in a hallway. So now you have a camera sitting in a hallway and you can move it as you need to."
"Not as cute [as a K9], but you don't have to feed it or clean up after it."