Smart farming using drones

Smart farming is changing the old ways of taking care of your fields and cattle in the agricultural sector. Aerial data is the pushing force of this change. 

By inspecting their fields from above, farmers and agronomists can now gain situational awareness with unmatched detail. With the right tools, they get overviews of their fields, forests, or cattle and collect data much more efficiently than with traditional methods.

Gathering and analyzing data influences decision-making and improves yield. These processes are now as accurate and efficient as ever due to better software, sensors, and drones.

Main applications of drones in smart farming

With the help of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), any area can be represented in maps for pest and weed monitoring, vegetation mapping, irrigation, and soil erosion management. The drone-made maps help keep track of the health of your plants and animals and display changes or dangers before they get out of control.

Yield estimation

Smart farming with accurate RGB sensors helps estimate yield more productively even before the harvest. For providing a visual representation of your land, standard RGB cameras look at three bands in the visible light spectrum: red (R), green (G), and blue (B). They produce images of a crop field or a forest similar to what we see with our eyes. Proper sensors, storing the largest amount of pixels, ensure the most detailed aerial pictures. With suitable photogrammetric software, they result in accurate yield estimation maps that help predict stock volume.

Crop health scouting

Drone crop inspection is one of the most efficient and effective ways to gain knowledge of crop health and pest activity throughout the cultivation process. With multispectral sensors you capture the light beyond the visible part of the light spectrum. This allows you to take action before problems even become visually noticeable and escalate. For example, too little nutrients in a plant result in insufficient photosynthesis, which can be seen in a small section of the red light band of your multispectral imagery.

Irrigation and soil management

Water and fertilizer wastage, under-irrigation, or machinery failures can damage plants. An agriculture drone assists you in spotting soil and irrigation problems before they critically harm the produce and wildlife. While detailed soil investigation still requires soil sampling, drones with multispectral and RGB remote sensing let you find the hot sports. Analyze mineral levels, dangerous topsoil degradation, and any typographical changes before they lead to irreversible damage. 

Vegetation mapping

Images captured by a UAV can be transformed into a VI (Vegetation Index) map. VI is a combination of different light spectrum bands to highlight particular vegetation properties. Your custom VI map can be compared to, for example, the NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) database, which holds the normal or healthy values of many crops. When the crop type is provided, image post-processing software contrasts the values of your map with the standard, automatically highlighting secretly problematic areas.

Forestry management

Drones can also facilitate the tasks of managing and caring for forests, woodlands, and wetlands. For forest managers, drones provide information on dense and otherwise inaccessible plots. When the forest grows, you can better understand the size, biodiversity, and tree and land conditions. A long-range UAV can give insight into the forest situation at any given time without putting anyone at risk, which is especially useful after natural disasters.

Cattle monitoring

UAVs are gaining increasingly more attention as a way to monitor and even herd cattle. One of the use cases of drone farming is the possibility for farmers to remotely check on their cattle, gaining flexibility in their daily operations. Remote monitoring can give insight into where the cattle are and whether they have access to water sources. The possibility to inspect land also comes in handy – you can monitor the state of the pasture and fences and see if there are any heavily grazed or dangerous spots from which the cattle should be directed.

Main applications of drones in smart farming

 

With the help of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), any area can be represented in maps for pest and weed monitoring, vegetation mapping, irrigation, and soil erosion management. The drone-made maps help keep track of the health of your plants and animals and display changes or dangers before they get out of control.

Yield estimation

Smart farming with accurate RGB sensors helps estimate yield more productively even before the harvest. For providing a visual representation of your land, standard RGB cameras look at three bands in the visible light spectrum: red (R), green (G), and blue (B). They produce images of a crop field or a forest similar to what we see with our eyes. Proper sensors, storing the largest amount of pixels, ensure the most detailed aerial pictures. With suitable photogrammetric software, they result in accurate yield estimation maps that help predict stock volume.

Crop health scouting

Drone crop inspection is one of the most efficient and effective ways to gain knowledge of crop health and pest activity throughout the cultivation process. With multispectral sensors you capture the light beyond the visible part of the light spectrum. This allows you to take action before problems even become visually noticeable and escalate. For example, too little nutrients in a plant result in insufficient photosynthesis, which can be seen in a small section of the red light band of your multispectral imagery.

Irrigation and soil management

Water and fertilizer wastage, under-irrigation, or machinery failures can damage plants. An agriculture drone assists you in spotting soil and irrigation problems before they critically harm the produce and wildlife. While detailed soil investigation still requires soil sampling, drones with multispectral and RGB remote sensing let you find the hot sports. Analyze mineral levels, dangerous topsoil degradation, and any typographical changes before they lead to irreversible damage. 

Vegetation mapping

Images captured by a UAV can be transformed into a VI (Vegetation Index) map. VI is a combination of different light spectrum bands to highlight particular vegetation properties. Your custom VI map can be compared to, for example, the NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) database, which holds the normal or healthy values of many crops. When the crop type is provided, image post-processing software contrasts the values of your map with the standard, automatically highlighting secretly problematic areas.

Forestry management

Drones can also facilitate the tasks of managing and caring for forests, woodlands, and wetlands. For forest managers, drones provide information on dense and otherwise inaccessible plots. When the forest grows, you can better understand the size, biodiversity, and tree and land conditions. A long-range UAV can give insight into the forest situation at any given time without putting anyone at risk, which is especially useful after natural disasters.

Cattle monitoring

UAVs are gaining increasingly more attention as a way to monitor and even herd cattle. One of the use cases of drone farming is the possibility for farmers to remotely check on their cattle, gaining flexibility in their daily operations. Remote monitoring can give insight into where the cattle are and whether they have access to water sources. The possibility to inspect land also comes in handy – you can monitor the state of the pasture and fences and see if there are any heavily grazed or dangerous spots from which the cattle should be directed.

Acquiring aerial data using drones

The strength of smart farming lies in how it enables you to acquire accurate and detailed data on a regular basis. Your application and your needs influence the choice of the tools.

Sensors

Choosing the suitable sensor often comes down to matching its specifics to your application.

Multispectral sensors are used in plant, soil, or water analysis, while RGB sensors help with tasks needing visual data as seen with the naked eye.

The level of detail you can get with your sensor depends on the resolution of your sensor. The most common sensors range from 24 MP to 61 MP. High resolution allows you to analyze in more detail or to fly at a higher altitude with the same level of detail. Since higher altitude means more coverage and higher efficiency, having 61MP gives you the most freedom and details in your flight.

Platform

For some mapping tasks, satellite imagery is available to use. Satellite imagery gives access to basic RGB data. However, data from satellites is not highly detailed and requires a clear sky for data gathering.

In precision agriculture, more resolution is necessary to target exact plants and areas.

Drone mapping solves the problems of precision and dependence on the weather, as some drones can fly under poor weather conditions. It gives more detail and lets you gather the data systematically, tracking the state of your fields over time.

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Positioning technologies

Location-wise, drones can map territories with unmatched accuracy because of post-processing kinematics (PPK) or real-time kinematics (RTK). These GPS correctional technologies record different types of satellite and drone data to reach higher geographic accuracy of even up to 1cm.

Paired with suitable sensors, drones with PPK or RTK solutions can help produce maps that are highly precise in both location and details.

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Post-processing

A single drone flight can produce up to 4000 individual images that are turned into maps with post-processing software like Pix4D or Agisoft.

The images are geo-referenced by adding coordinates to each image for maximum geographic location precision and then stitched together into orthomosaics. That is, the software aligns various overlapping pictures based on their geo-coordinates and reference points, creating 2D and 3D maps.

The findings can then be used directly or integrated into planning software that gives prescriptions and recommendations. This ensures smooth and efficient decision making and realization based on the processed data.

Acquiring aerial data using drones

 

The strength of smart farming lies in how it enables you to acquire accurate and detailed data on a regular basis. Your application and your needs influence the choice of the tools.

Sensors

Choosing the suitable sensor often comes down to matching its specifics to your application.

Multispectral sensors are used in plant, soil, or water analysis, while RGB sensors help with tasks needing visual data as seen with the naked eye.

The level of detail you can get with your sensor depends on the resolution of your sensor. The most common sensors range from 24 MP to 61 MP. High resolution allows you to analyze in more detail or to fly at a higher altitude with the same level of detail. Since higher altitude means more coverage and higher efficiency, having 61MP gives you the most freedom and details in your flight.

Platform

For some mapping tasks, satellite imagery is available to use. Satellite imagery gives access to basic RGB data. However, data from satellites is not highly detailed and requires a clear sky for data gathering.

In precision agriculture, more resolution is necessary to target exact plants and areas.

Drone mapping solves the problems of precision and dependence on the weather, as some drones can fly under poor weather conditions. It gives more detail and lets you gather the data systematically, tracking the state of your fields over time.

Positioning technologies

Location-wise, drones can map territories with unmatched accuracy because of post-processing kinematics (PPK) or real-time kinematics (RTK). These GPS correctional technologies record different types of satellite and drone data to reach higher geographic accuracy of even up to 1cm.

Paired with suitable sensors, drones with PPK of RTK solutions can help produce maps that are highly precise in both location and details.

Post-processing

A single drone flight can produce up to 4000 individual images that are turned into maps with post-processing software like Pix4D or Agisoft.

The images are geo-referenced by adding coordinates to each image for maximum geographic location precision and then stitched together into orthomosaics. That is, the software aligns various overlapping pictures based on their geo-coordinates and reference points, creating 2D and 3D maps.

The findings can then be used directly or integrated into planning software that gives prescriptions and recommendations. This ensures smooth and efficient decision making and realization based on the processed data.

Choosing the ideal drone for smart farming

After defining your task and your needs, comes the question of choosing a drone. Here are the main components to look at when deciding on which one to use.

Flight time

Ask yourself what your area of mapping is. Longer flight times let you reach and map the largest or the most remote territories. Moreover, greater endurance allows for maximizing the operational efficiency of every single flight. It keeps the cameras in the air for long periods of time, letting you collect more pictures without returning to base.

Payload capacity

Payload capacity is the ability to carry different sensors. Consider how much detail and coverage you need and what sensors would fulfil those needs. Then, look at whether the drone can carry the weight of the camera of your choice and how easily the sensors can be integrated. If you need more cameras, they need to be easy to swap and deploy.

Software options

Drone software includes GPS systems, planning, and flight software. Currently, there are GPS systems up to 1 cm commercially available. Planning and flights are becoming increasingly autonomous to bring ease of use to your operations. You need not worry about flight planning, pre-flight checks or navigate it manually if you make sure the software does so autonomously.

A quadcopter

Holding its power in the four motors, a quadcopter usually has a short flight time and low payload capacity. Nonetheless, it is relatively easy to use and is a smaller investment compared to other solutions.

A fixed-wing drone

Fixed-wing drones offer higher altitudes and longer flight times, allowing you to cover bigger plots of land. However, fixed-wing UAVs have limited maneuvering possibilities and might be more challenging to operate as they need more space to take off and experience to manage.

A fixed-wing vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) drone

A fixed-wing VTOL UAV combines the qualities of a quadcopter and a fixed-wing drone to bring the best of both worlds.

Choosing the ideal drone for smart farming

After defining your task and your needs, comes the question of choosing a drone. Here are the main components to look at when deciding on which one to use.

 

Flight time

Ask yourself what your area of mapping is. Longer flight times let you reach and map the largest or the most remote territories. Moreover, greater endurance allows for maximizing the operational efficiency of every single flight. It keeps the cameras in the air for long periods of time, letting you collect more pictures without returning to base.

Payload capacity

Payload capacity is the ability to carry different sensors. Consider how much detail and coverage you need and what sensors would fulfil those needs. Then, look at whether the drone can carry the weight of the camera of your choice and how easily the sensors can be integrated. If you need more cameras, they need to be easy to swap and deploy.

Software options

Drone software includes GPS systems, planning, and flight software. Currently, there are GPS systems up to 1 cm commercially available. Planning and flights are becoming increasingly autonomous to bring ease of use to your operations. You need not worry about flight planning, pre-flight checks or navigate it manually if you make sure the software does so autonomously.

A quadcopter

Holding its power in the four motors, a quadcopter usually has a short flight time and low payload capacity. Nonetheless, it is relatively easy to use and is a smaller investment compared to other solutions.

A fixed-wing drone

Fixed-wing drones offer higher altitudes and longer flight times, allowing you to cover bigger plots of land. However, fixed-wing UAVs have limited maneuvering possibilities and might be more challenging to operate as they need more space to take off and experience to manage.

A fixed-wing vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) drone

A fixed-wing VTOL UAV combines the qualities of a quadcopter and a fixed-wing drone to bring the best of both worlds.

The DeltaQuad Pro #MAP

Industry leading VTOL mapping UAV

The DeltaQuad Pro #MAP is a fixed-wing VTOL UAV for agriculture, offering high-resolution situational awareness. Due to its flight time, available payloads, and autonomous missions, #MAP enables productive, highly accurate, and easy mapping for agriculture.

Large coverage

The DeltaQuad mapping model has impressive endurance and a great range of movement, providing you with large amounts of data. Due to its efficient wing configuration, the DeltaQuad Pro #MAP can fly for up to 110 minutes and perform corridor scans of up to 50km – a performance right on top of the electric UAVs on the market. With the ability to fly safely in rain and snow, the DeltaQuad Pro #MAP enables you to reach maximum efficiency in every operation under various weather conditions.

Best quality payload options

Camera mounts and payloads in the DeltaQuad Pro #MAP are swappable, which means you can choose the mapping payloads that are best fitted for your tasks. #The MAP model is compatible with the highest quality sensors, allowing maximum precision. The drone can be paired with 61MP resolution RGB cameras, as well as best quality multispectral and thermal sensors.

Easy operation

The DeltaQuad Pro #MAP is easy to deploy and control. It can be transported and operated virtually anywhere and airborne within two minutes without pre-flight calibrations. With our easy-to-use planning software and the touch screen on the controller, you can effortlessly define your survey area with the beginning, middle, and endpoints in the field of interest. It will automatically calculate at what altitude to fly, what mapping pattern to perform, and when to trigger the camera.

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