Use of Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle in Agricultural Research

Author(s): Pennington, D.

Recent development in electronic and software systems have made the use of small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) practical for a wide range of applications. In the research presented here, an electric powered, 5 lb, 66 inch wing span, foam fixed wing model airplane was fitted with a 3D Robotics, APM 2.6 autopilot for guidance and two point-and-shoot Canon cameras for imagery collection. One camera is a 1.2 MP RGB camera and the filter in the second camera was changed to allow the red band to receive and record intensity of near infrared electromagnetic energy. Programmed flight missions were flown over 3 different fields at 100 meters above ground level or less. The same missions were flown over each field on several dates. The total number of individual images collected for each field ranged from 80 images for small plot areas to 325 images for a 65 acre production soybean field. Individual georeferenced tagged images were stitched into a single georeferenced orthophotograph mosaic for each field using the Dronemapper data system available commercially through the internet. Yield data was collected from the plot areas using conventional plot harvesting methods. Yield data from two production fields were obtained from yield data collected during harvest with combines fitted with yield monitoring systems. The remotely sensed imagery data and the spatial yield data were compared and analyzed with QGIS (free GIS software) and spreadsheets. Comparisons of spatial imagery and yield data are being made and the results of those analysis will be presented. Operational experience of a UAV system will also be discussed.
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