How drones are driving improvements to crop husbandry

So, we all know (or at least should make it our business to know) the growing demands being placed on our farmers to increase the output of their crops to feed the ever-growing global population. For this reason, growers and agronomists have been seeking new and innovative ways to assist with this challenge!

Just a few days ago, RAWview’s Product Integration team started a new consultation with a large-scale grower looking to put drone technology to work to assist with their agronomy decisions throughout the growing season.

When it comes to maximising yields, it is critical to identify potential problems early enough so that the outcome can still be influenced. This is precisely the value that a carefully selected, end-to-end drone solution will provide; giving users the ability to make data-backed decisions for the prescription of corrective measures.

Following an initial telephone consultation with our client, we agreed a plan to visit one of their farms to survey a 20-acre field of winter wheat, and to demonstrate the powerful analysis tools on offer. This started with a flight of the field to capture the 284 images required to stitch a high-resolution map, which the analysis tools could then get to work on. Time taken to plan the flight route and gather the images: less than 20 minutes from arriving in the field!

As the drone flies, each new image is stitched to the last one to create a live view of the map as it is being created – this is an extremely useful feature as it allows the user to capture visual issues within the field immediately, and in absolute real-time. However, we were interested in providing more detailed analysis, which does required the full map to be completed. Once the flight was complete, it was time to upload the images to our data processing platform for the map to be processed – it is this process that gives users the benefit of a bird’s eye view of an area, whilst at the same time providing the ability to zoom in and see a level of detail that is akin to standing right there in the field amongst the crop. The images below show 2 versions of the same 20-acre section of the field.

 

This image shows a visual representation of the stitched map. This can be used to give users a very quick visual overview of the field.

 

 

 

 

This image shows the same stitched map, but this time with a basic plant health algorithm called the “Visible Atmospherically Resistant Index” (VARI) applied. This gives further visual aid to allow targeted ground assessment to be carried out.

 

 

 

This image shows an area of the map that has been magnified with the platform’s zoom tool. As you can see, even with this high level of zoom applied, the image is still suitably resolute to remotely assess an area of interest.

 

 

 

This image shows the stitched drone imagery as a 3D model, as opposed to the 2D map. This method allows the user to explore any area of the field with a virtual reality type experience. Again, this is useful for remote assessment of a particular area of interest.

 

This is just a very basic example of the drone-based crop analysis available to growers and agronomists to quickly identify what’s happening in various areas of any cropped field. There are many, many other more detailed analysis tools available, all of which can interact with the maps you have seen in this article; tools like stand count reports, where plant establishment can be compared against target plant population, or weed stress reports that show precise locations of weed stress. Better still, it is possible to import these analyses into farm management software programs to enable actions to the findings.

Interested to see how RAWview can help you integrate drones into your precision farming operations? Get in touch with us to arrange an initial telephone consultation.

Let's talk about a bespoke drone system for your needs.