Precision agriculture, and crop scouting in particular, has taken off via the the use of drone technology. Expect this to continue through 2015.
Our friends at Event 38 first wrote this article on crop scouting in August of 2014. However, the information is so valuable that we decided we would share it with you now.
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 scouting is 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/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.
Crop Scouting Case Study Results
Today we can gain basic insights about the crop. In the future we will be able to identify and quantify specific issues, allowing the farm manager to take measured action only when financially appropriate.
In late-July, 2014, we flew over a 75-acre cornfield in central Ohio. The flight lasted about 15 minutes, was flown at 400 feet completely autonomously, and captured 140 images at a 3cm/pixel resolution.
Below are some of the findings we observed.
1. Spotlight Areas of Interest
By viewing the whole planting area, crop scouting is able to identify particular areas of interest to follow up with an examination on the ground.
2. Determine Crop Height
Today we can sample the planting area to determine plant height. Taking periodic readings of the same area will give crop scouting an indication of plant growth over time.
3. Calculate Crop Health with NDVI
NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) is a simple analytical tool that indicates chlorophyll activity in plants but is also strongly correlated to plant biomass, leaf area index, and plant stress symptoms.
Event38 is working with crop scouting professionals and researchers to develop next generation tools for precision agriculture. We are actively seeking collaboration with farmers, researchers, developers, and commercial partners. Your comments and feedback are appreciated. Tell us about improvements you would like to see in the near future.
Formed in 2011, Event 38 designs and manufactures two types of drones (fixed wing and hexa-copter) and specialized optical sensors. Today we have customers in 49 countries using our equipment for agriculture, surveying, construction, environmental preservation, and other applications.
Our current market focus is on solutions for agriculture. Our goal is to collect and aggregate all data relevant to cultivation, make it available to farmers, and to build a marketplace via an open architecture platform for ourselves and third parties to develop end user applications. For more information please contact us at www.Event38.com.