This first installment of the drone newsletter series will provide an overview of different drone airframes, their sensors and several mapping options.
There are three ways a producer can get drone technology:
- They can personally purchase, maintain, and employ a drone
- They can borrow services from a neighbor, friend or Co-op
- Or they can hire a 3rd party service provider.
As with any new equipment purchase, the producer needs to determine their requirements before making a commitment to any method. The product – be it a picture, video or map – should enhance producer decision-making.
There are two main categories of drones – consumer-grade and commercial-grade.
- Consumer-grade drones such as a DJI Phantom or a 3DR Solo are relatively inexpensive but have shorter flight time, poorer wind capabilities and usually do not have high quality sensors or mapping software. These aircraft will produce on-demand overhead pictures or videos of the field or farm, which can give the producer a complete picture of the field and enhance crop scouting.
- Commercial-grade drones such as the Ag Eagle or the eBee are more expensive but have longer flight times, can operate in higher winds and can carry much larger and higher quality on-board sensors. These aircraft are used in conjunction with mapping software to create data-driven products to aid with farm decisions.
Sensors and camera capabilities
Many consumer-grade drones come with a GoPro style video camera. These cameras produce high quality video imagery and pictures, which may be useful for visual crop scouting or general farm condition awareness. However, high quality mapping requires the use of a Near Infrared (NIR) or high-end RGB (Red Green Blue) camera and access to mapping software.
These cameras are heavier and require a larger drone to carry them. As with the drone, the producer should evaluate the sensor requirement before making a sensor purchase.
Mapping applications available
The drone industry is truly in its infancy. The maps, products, and uses for these wonderful tools will continue to develop. But there are already many tested products the drone can produce for the ag industry. With the right sensor and software, drones can produce products ranging from 3D maps of buildings and land, to visualizations that determine the rise and run of the ground within centimeters, to maps that support prescription application of nitrogen, to a visual reference that supports a crop insurance claim.
Fly Ag Tech and our partners fly commercial-grade drones with commercial-grade sensors. We use mapping software and agronomist support to develop prescription maps for mid-season nitrogen application, full field crop scouting, disease identification, conservation plan and EPA-compliance support, crop insurance claim support and many other data driven products.
Over the next few months, we will provide further detail on the types of technologies and capabilities available with commercial-grade drones today to improve farm decision-making and efficiency. Please find us at www.flyagtech.com or contact your IntelliFarms representative with any questions about our products.