Mapping crop health using drone technology

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AgEagle can be used to pinpoint early crop problems at any time, resulting reduced crop treatment costs.

The use of drones or unmanned aerial vehicles to provide high resolution NDVI (Normalised Difference Vegetation Index) maps for growers, is fast becoming the latest farm tool.

The AgEagle system, distributed by Falcon UAV, is now available to Australian growers and is an entry in the Henty Machine of the Year Award.

This UAV has been specifically designed for the ag market, is simple to operate, built tractor tough and economical.

Phil Lyons, of Falcon UAV, will train new users, taking no more than a couple of days.

“It really is that easy to fly,’’ he said.

The ability for a farmer to pinpoint early crop problems at any time, leads to reduced crop treatment costs and increased yield.

“After a 40 minute flight, the AgEagle can image around 72ha,’’ Mr Lyons said.

“The image map created can instantly show a grower where they can save on chemicals or where it is not needed.

“This map will also highlight problem areas to be ground trothed. This saves hours of scouting around a paddock on a quad bike or on foot.’’

The AgEagle system is fully autonomous, so a simple lap top computer does all the flying, even the landing is automatic.

The system comes with a GPS equipped camera shooting Near InfraRed pictures every two seconds.

These are stitched into a single image and converted to NDVI or Crop Health, all with software provided.

“Early adopters of this new technology will receive the early benefits,’’ Mr Lyons said.

Whilst NDVI imagery has been around for some time via satellite, having a UAV/drone allows for timely, higher resolution images, whether it is cloudy or not.

With images available within a few hours of flight, farmers can act immediately.

Mr Lyons said growers could image test sites for fertilisers or seed varieties, then closely monitor these for the healthiest options.

“With a wide variety of UAVs now flying, before investing in a UAV on your farm, ask if it can fly in high winds, run out of battery life at 400 feet and survive, how many acres it can cover in a single flight, the difficulty of the flight planning software and if local training is available.

“UAVs are still just imaging platforms and as new sensors/cameras are developed, farmers will have a new perspective of their land.’’