Using drones for crop surveillance can drastically increase farm crop yields while minimizing the cost of walking the fields or airplane fly-over filming. Using our Dynamic UAV drones for Crop Health Imaging, you can view composite video showing the health of your crops.
Through recent advancements in drone technology, the cost of collecting vast amounts of information on large areas of land has decreased to pennies per acre. New, sophisticated sensors let us gather data at the plant (leaf) level at a moment’s notice, which supports speedy decision-making and an opportunity for farmers to attain higher crop yields. By adding additional data sources, we expect to find hidden relationships and make further improvements in farm management. This combination of drones, sophisticated sensor hardware, and big data predictive and prescriptive analytics will revolutionize farm management in the near future.
Crop scouts perform a key service to farmers to ensure crop success. Typically, they are engaged to identify crop issues, (i.e., pests, soil condition, disease, plant health, weeds, etc.) and to make recommendations for treatments and or interventions. Currently, they periodically sample small areas and generalize their findings to the whole field. In the near future, crop scouts will use drones to analyze the complete planting area, quickly identify issues, and provide recommendations for highly localized treatments.
Drones diagnose plant health and decrease insecticide use:
- Plants suffer stress from nutrient deficiency, making them more susceptible to pest attacks
- Increased pest attacks result in increased blanket use of insecticides, but new technology could combat this
- Drones and multi-sensory cameras can detect nutrient deficient/susceptible areas, and map for targeted treatment by farmers
Drones, or Unmanned Aerial vehicles (UAVs), are playing the role of medical doctor and are now able to diagnose the stress levels of plants, which could lead to less insecticide use:
- Quirky as it may sound, stress in plants is a key factor in their susceptibility to pest attacks.
- For commercial grain crops, this can have a massive impact on results.
- Plants can be stressed for any number of reasons, but one of the most common is a nutrient deficiency, according to Department of Agriculture and Food WA research scientist Dusty Severtson.
“In particular, previous studies have found plants deficient in potassium will be more susceptible to attacks from pests, such as aphids,” he says.
The stress levels of individual plants in canola fields have been assessed using advanced imaging technology from a drone (an eight-rotor octocopter), mounted with a multi-sensor camera.
Researchers could see which areas in the field have the poorest plant growth, by studying the camera images, and the wavelengths of light given off by the plants.
The cell structures of plant leaves strongly reflect near-infrared light when they are hit by sunlight. The more infrared light is reflected, the more leaves a plant has, thus indicating its health.
The UAV imaging was most accurate (99.9 per cent) at detecting potassium-deficient canola at 120 meters above ground level, about four months after seeding.
In the study, plants deficient in potassium showed less biomass and much higher green peach aphid infestations.
What does this mean for insecticide use?
Mr Severtson says the regions can then be targeted for early detection of pests and disease and, if the results from the study are ground-truthed, may also allow for targeted insecticide applications.
Mr Severtson hopes the findings from his research project will encourage farmers to use insecticides more sparingly in the future.
“Not only will this technology save farmers money, but it will also reduce the blanket application of insecticides across the farm resulting in mitigation of insecticide resistance and promotion of beneficial predator insects in unsprayed areas of crop,” he says.
However, while Mr Severtson says the UAV imaging technology is more accurate than satellite technology, it is still early days in terms of applying it on-farm.
“One of the biggest hurdles is that we are still producing “Big Data”, meaning we are receiving huge amounts of information and farmers are really only looking for one or two simple findings from this technology,” he says.
From the ability to image, recreate, and analyze individual leaves on a soybean plant from 400 feet, to getting information on the water-holding capacity of soil, to variable-rate water applications out West, the industry has been sold -and sold HARD- on how UAVs can deliver ROI for both growers and crop consultants alike.
Mid-Season Crop Health Monitoring (aka Scouting)
The ability to inspect in-progress crops from on high with Normalized Difference Vegetative Index (NDVI) or near-infrared (NIR) sensors is, thus far, the #1 use for drones in farming. A task that traditionally was done by often-reluctant college interns walking fields with notepad in hand, drones like the Phoenix now allow for coverage of more acres, as well as the capturing of data that cannot be seen by the human eye (NDVI). Plus, it removes much of the human error aspect of traditional scouting, though physically inspecting areas of concern after viewing the imagery, is still recommended.
Irrigation Equipment Monitoring
Managing multiple irrigation pivots is… well, it’s a pain, especially for large growers that have many fields spread out across a county or region. Once crops like corn begin reaching certain heights, mid-season inspections of the nozzles and sprinklers on irrigation equipment that deliver much-needed water really becomes a pain-in-the-you-know-what.
Mid-Field Weed Identification
Using NDVI sensor data and post-flight image processing to create a weed map, growers and their agronomists can easily differentiate areas of high-intensity weed proliferation from the healthy crops growing right alongside them. Historically, many growers haven’t realized how pronounced their weed problem was until harvest time.
Although many will argue ground-based or satellite imagery, along with a dedicated grid soil sampling program, are more practical for the purpose of refining Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium applications in agriculture, drones do have their fit. Dynamic UAV, a drone service startup, has used NDVI maps to direct in-season fertilizer applications on corn and other crops. By using drone-generated, variable-rate application (VRA) maps to determine the strength of nutrient uptake within a single field, the farmer can apply 60 pounds of fertilizer to the struggling areas, 50 pounds to the medium areas, and 40 pounds to the healthy areas, decreasing fertilizer costs and boosting yields.
Cattle Herd Monitoring
Many growers during the days of depressed commodity prices in the late-90s to early 2000s made the call to diversify their farms by adding cattle or swine operations. Drones are a solid option for monitoring herds from overhead, tracking the quantity and activity level of animals on one’s property. And they are especially helpful for night-time monitoring due to the human eye’s inability thus far to evolve to the point of seeing in the dark.
DynamicUAV’s drones provides aerial surveying services to a range of industries including:
- Oil & gas
We sell a range of professional UAV’s that are purpose-built for commercial surveying purposes, enabling us to reliably and safely capture high quality remotely sensed data. Our team of professionals have the necessary resources and skills to turn this data into useful spatial information suitable to your GIS or CAD software.
Our certified UAV Controllers are all experienced surveyors who have been fully trained in safety and operational management systems. Applying photogrammetry processes to generate detailed, spatially accurate 3D point clouds and digital terrain models (DTM’s).
- Mine site planning
- Open pit surveys
- Volumetric cut and fill analyses
- Surface water hydrology assessments
- Erosion monitoring of natural and man-made landforms
- Vegetation canopy modelling
Drones are just one way of capturing land information in terms of elevation and crop health. And the operator can use this information to help with designing tile drainage systems.
By flying over a quarter section, you can obtain a quite number of pictures, from those numerous pictures, we can extract elevation data and provide a preliminary report to determine if tile drainage is going to be effective, or what alternatives and options are out there for them.
When it comes to using the drone’s data, it can be more precise than ground surveying. making your work of planning tile drainage more efficient.
Ground surveying gives you a really good idea of the exactly elevations you’re dealing with. The drone shows you lots of audit points and you’ll see that accuracy with the drone. You get an actual image of the field as it stands, so it gives you new tools in explore new ways of looking at drainage and crop health.