Farming drone imagery

 

When it comes to generating farm data, a drone is simply a tool to get a camera in the air. Drone platforms can carry a variety of cameras and imaging sensors, however most use off the shelf Canon digital cameras running a custom software load called CHDK. This custom software allows you to trigger the camera on a timer or via a trigger from the drone's navigation computer. After the flight is over the SD card is filled with hundreds of pictures taken straight down from above. At this point you stitch these files into a single large image. There are a variety of free of paid tools to accomplish this that are covered in our article on processing software, the resulting images can be imported into your choice of farm data managment software, or compared in powerful tools like Googles earth viewer. 

Images can taken either as normal images, or by a camera with modifications made so it can capture light in the infrared spectrum. These images can be post processed into an NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) that shows differences in a plants reflection of infrared light telling a farmer if plants under stress before changes can be seen by the naked eye.

 
The image to the right was colored to show the contrast between Googles earth viewer and a complete processed field image file. Using regular flights, a grower could cycle though images tracking growing patterns and crop health. Further steps can be taken to accuratly georeference the drone images to allow the setting of guidance lines and water way boundries without ever driving in the field.
 
By flying the drone closer to the ground its possible to capture images in shockingly high resolution. This makes scouting weeds and tracking their growth a chore done from an office desk rather than with boot on the ground. Tools can also be used to calcuate the exact acreage of a planted crop so insurance is not being purchased on non-produtive ground.

If you see applicaiton for drones and their resulting data in your operation, contact a Messick's precision farming specialist today.