What is Precision Agriculture?

Precision agriculture is a farming management concept based on observing, measuring and responding to inter- and intra-field variability in crops. The goal of precision agriculture is to more efficiently apply a farm’s limited resources to gain maximum yield. A primary method for doing that is to minimise variability of crop health within and across fields. Due to its nature, precision agriculture requires a lot of data to work.






The three main types of data include:

  1. Geo-tagged Images: visible and multi-spectral aerial images taken of fields, over time
  2. Equipment Performance: real time feedback and logs provided by sensor-equipped manned and unmanned equipment such as seeders, spreaders, tractors and combines
  3. Management Data: crop yield and other data provided by farm operators

Where do UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) fit in Precision Agriculture?

UAVs or drones are really just a new, high-precision way to obtain geo-tagged images from the air. Compared with other aerial survey methods, drones generate more precise and more frequent data about the condition of crops. This data is used in many ways to improve the performance of a farm’s operation.

Drones are used to gather a variety of image-based data about the condition of crops, fields and livestock – including:

  • Plant height
  • Plant count
  • Plant health
  • Presence of nutrients
  • Presence of disease
  • Presence of weeds
  • Relative biomass estimates
  • 3D / Volumetric data (piles, patches, holes and hills)

Drone data is used to do farming jobs more effectively and efficiently, including:

  • Crop Scouting – replace men with drones
  • Crop Health Monitoring – biggest ROI, by far
  • Field Surveying / Scouting (before planting)
  • Nitrogen Recommendation
  • Yield Monitoring
  • Plant Stress Monitoring
  • Drought Assessment
  • Leaf Area Indexing
  • Tree Classification and more

To take quick action, orthomosaic images generated by drones can be fed into an agricultural programs to create prescription maps. Prescription maps inform the farm operator where and what specific actions are needed, such as increasing or decreasing nitrogen spread on trouble spots. Prescription maps can be transferred directly into a precision applicator (sprayer) like a John Deere® or Case IH®.

Because of the amount of data required, many precision farmers use agronomy management systems to collect and integrate all of the data flowing to / from their sensor-equipped tractors, combines, drones and other equipment found on farms today. Drones interact with agronomy management systems by feeding them with rich, detailed and timely geo-tagged images. Using this data, farmers can react more quickly and more precisely than they can using other aerial imaging methods.

If precision technology has driven the farming revolution of recent years, monitoring crops from the sky will drive the next.

With a drone or UAV you can capture highly accurate images of your fields, covering up to hundreds of hectares/acres in a single flight. Without the cost and hassle of manned services. At a far greater resolution than satellite imagery provides, even when there is cloud cover.

By using image processing software you can then transform these shots into one large 'orthomosaic' image. Apply algorithms like Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) to this image and you create a reflectance map of your crop.

This map is the key to boosting yields, cutting costs, and driving your business forwards. It highlights exactly which areas of crop need closer examination – meaning less time spent scouting, and more time treating the plants that need it.

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