Farmers and ranchers at the recent American Farm Bureau Federation’s 96th Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show got a better look at the benefits of unmanned aerial vehicles. This news release from the group says the workshop presented by Kevin Price, executive vice president of applied research and technology development at AgPixel/RoboFlight Systems, LLC, showed how the combination of UAVs and multi-spectral image processing could be the next step in precision agriculture, giving farmers almost instant information with greater detail than ever before.
“This will be a technology that changes the way we do agriculture,” Price said.
The concept behind this innovation is simple: the healthier a plant is, the more chlorophyll it produces; the more chlorophyll a plant has, the more green light it reflects. With multi-spectral images reading the amount of green light being reflected by crops and a specialized map (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index), farmers will be able to get an image of their field with all of the trouble spots highlighted.
This map allows a field scout or farmer to find areas with nitrogen deficiency, irrigation lapses, soil erosion, or insect or weather damage. The high resolution images tell farmers exactly where to take action, saving them from the time and expense of treating a larger area. Many of the problems mapping can detect are invisible to an observer standing on the ground.
“I was contacted by the Chinese to teach them how to use drones,” Price explained. “When taking a picture of rice I thought it looked really good, but when the maps came back, directly in front of me was a problem area.”
The agriculture sector is expected to benefit from the use of UAVs 10 times as much as other industries, with rapid adoption. But Price cautions against farmers jumping in with shoddy products and promises of cheap analysis. He says producers need drones that are sturdy and give the information needed.
2015 AFBF Convention photo album