Perhaps no aspect of the infant world of the drone (UAS -Unmanned Aerial System) industry is changing quite as fast as the use of drones in agriculture. At DroneAscent, we think it is all for the good of the industry. Drone diagnostics delivers better data, faster, much cheaper, and with more precision.
In the last two years crop scouting data obtained by drones has been rapidly displacing that collected by satellites (mainly Landsat, with its low-resolution and often dated information) and cameras mounted on fixed wing aircraft and helicopters, which is quite expensive.
There is little to absolutely zero loss of capability in using a drone over of a helicopter, and the savings in time and money are startling. This data can be used to look at:
- Plant counts
- Stand, planting or harvesting issues
- Drainage, irrigation and field contours
- Detect early crop damage from pests and parasites
- Assess the efficacy of fertilizer and other applications
- Identify overall plant health.
Using drones makes the resulting data is easier to obtain, more cost-effective by every standard, and provides much greater resolution, effectively giving you on-demand, robust analyses.
Unlike in previous years, most of the advances are coming not from hardware; the drones themselves, stabilizing gymbals and cameras, but from the drone controlling and data interpreting software.
In 2017 staff at DroneAscent are seeing the introduction of ‘In Field’ software. In the past, field data collected on-site had to be uploaded off-site to internet servers for processing, requiring a cell (often bog slow) or Wi-Fi connection, then filtered and downloaded later, meaning anything from a few hours to a day or more to obtain useful information.
“In Field” means the drone uses software that requires no external internet connection. Field section images are stitched together while flying. The complete field map, up to 160 acres on a single drone battery, is often finished before the drone lands, and can be processed, run through filtering apps, manipulated, and in the back of a pickup truck. No sending in images to the internet and then waiting for results. Available to you, the farmer, or your agronomist, right there. This increase in speed and reduction in costs can mean closer attention to fields, more scans, and the ability to monitor not just a single day in time but the history of a field from week to week, month to month, or year to year.
But, as in the past, the use of data obtained by drones does not obviate the need for ground truthing, but it can quickly and accurately show where a field needs to be walked, where trouble lies, eliminating one of the most tedious aspects of crop scouting.
– The DroneAscent Team, with contributing pilot, BK.