Drones for
Agriculture

Reap the benefits of precise crop scouting from above

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.

Drones in the crop scouting workflow

The guide below explains how drones fit within the precision crop scouting workflow. This info applies to most common varieties of crop (wheat, soya bean etc.), with this circle of activity typically being repeated at every key growth stage.

Choose the best sensor (camera) for the job

  • RGB (Red/Green/Blue): visual inspection, elevation modeling, plant counting
  • NIR (near-infrared): soil property & moisture analysis, crop health/stress analysis, water management, erosion analysis, plant counting
  • RE (red-edge): crop health analysis, plant counting, water management
  • multiSPEC 4C (multispectral): both NIR & RE applications, except plant counting
  • thermoMAP (thermal infrared) – plant physiology analysis, irrigation scheduling, maturity evaluation, yield forecasting 
  • Learn more

Plan flight using ground station software

  • Highlight field/region on base map
  • Define landing area
  • Set required image resolution & photo overlap

Optional: define elevation

  • Capture Ground Control Points (GCPs)

Fly

  • Hand launch
  • Fully automated flight & landing
  • Monitor flight / live update of flight plan possible

Process (field/office)

  • Download data & build project
  • Perform initial processing
  • Generate custom vegetation indices (VI's) such as NDVI, LAI etc.
  • Optional: generate orthomosaic

Analyse

  • Options:

    • Local analysis (data not shared)

      • Use supplied post-flight software

    • Export data to third-party software programs

      • See compatibility section below

    • Collaborative analysis

      • Share data with colleague/partner/cloud

  • Methods:

    • Vegetation indices (VI) such as NDVI, CWSI etc.

      • Detect structural, chlorophyll & water stresses

    • Elevation data/topography

      • Monitor erosion, design water drainage & irrigation systems

    • Manual inspection

      • Detect patterns, machine issues, weeds, plant stand, erosion etc.

    • Plant counting & statistics
    • Soil moisture & temperature

      • Evaluate drainage systems, disease & plant mortality

Inquire

  • Index variations
  • Patterns in canopy height, vigour, colour, density
  • Developing erosion channels
  • Damage observations
  • Plant statistical variations & comparisons to other data (e.g. planter data)
  • Patterns in dry soil vs. wet soil
  • Determine relative location of drainage tile & whether functioning/broken
  • Identify pests, disease, weeds
  • Collect tissue tests for fertility & disease issues
  • Collect soil samples for soil, fertility, pH & pest issues
  • Dig plants, inspect root structure for signs of compaction, depth, disease, pests
  • Measure erosion channel width & depth
  • Note machine issues & other visual defects
  • Count plants & determine population / spacing issues
  • Conduct exploratory excavation to determine drainage tile, depth, size & location
  • Any additional feedback
  • Gauge severity of impact
  • Gauge severity of damage
  • Identify deficiency in fertility, water or other
  • Verify survey data
  • Drainage tile, terrace & waterway condition/functionality

Compile

  • Match observations & assessments with survey data

Plan

  • Create planting, chemical treatment or fertiliser prescription
  • Land improvements – design & install drainage system, terraces, waterways, buffer strips, etc.
  • Move livestock
  • Harvest crop
  • Modify chemical treatment strategy & timing
  • Make necessary repairs or replace problematic machinery
  • Change farming practices
  • Land management – take ground in or out of production, rotate crops, etc.
  • Carry out plan – avert risk, economical
  • Don’t carry out plan – no risk, not economical

Drone usage by season

The following non-crop-specific overview shows the different ways in which a drone can be used to provide accurate, on demand data throughout the year.

Note: some farming operations may not follow the exact timeline below due to differences in crop type, region, tillage system, treatment or fertiliser strategy.

Case studies & reports

Explore a range of stories, articles and studies on the benefits and potential applications of drone technology in precision farming.

How drones & expert analysis helped 300 French farmers to boost crop yields by 10%

OCEALIA Group has used senseFly drones and AIRINOV’s agronomy expertise since 2015 to better assess and more accurately treat its crops. The result: a 10% average increase in crop yields.

Download the PDF

Precision agriculture lab analysis

In this detailed research project Signpost Surveys collected and lab-analysed drone-sourced multispectral data spanning a range of crops.

Read more

Water and drainage control using UAV imagery

Learn how AgSky Technologies helped one client use drone-sourced elevation data to address problem drainage areas in its fields. 

Read more

Nuts about farming with drones

When training a new drone customer, Norbert Plate of iQlaser employed the client’s new eBee to assess the health of his peanut crop.

Download the PDF

UAV use in agriculture for manure comparison (PDF)

Photogrammetry software specialist Pix4D on using drone technology to analyse how different applications of manure have an impact on plant health and growth.

Read more

Precision ag profile: AgSky Technologies

The Canadian Business Journal talks with Warren Genik of AgSky Technologies about the eBee-based services the company offers farmers in the region.

Read more

Un drone-avion au service des agriculteurs

One for French speakers: France 3 Picardie's video report on the Chamber of Agriculture's eBee drone use.

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Golly Farms' UAV experience

Todd Golly of Golly Farms in Winnebago shares his thoughts on using a drone to collect aerial imagery in place of manned aircraft.

Read more

UAV: growing for Australia (PDF)

The ‘Eye in the Sky’ project aims to inform farmers of the benefits that drones can bring to agriculture.

Read more

Inventory of small forest areas using an unmanned aerial system

Published in July 2015 in Remote Sensing, this peer-reviewed study details how acquiring high spatial and temporal resolution imagery with drones provides new opportunities for taking small scale forest inventories.

Read more

Droning their way to great grapes

How one Swiss vineyard and an agricultural engineering organisation are using a senseFly UAV to produce a tastier crop.

Read more

An early French adopter's 'agridrone' experience (in French)

French farmer Jean Baptiste Bruggeman details his in-depth testing of his Airinov-supplied senseFly drone platform.

Read more

"There are a lot of $5,000 UAVs available, but they don't fly themselves so they're basically fancy remote controlled helicopters. With the senseFly eBee Ag you get a complete solution — take a couple minutes to plan a mission, launch it by hand (no catapults), and the eBee does the rest. It flies, takes images, figures out the wind and lands right where you want it to. There’s nothing more portable, powerful and easy to use."

Todd Golly
Partner, Golly Farms, United States

Todd Golly

"We use the eBee in central Alberta to monitor crops throughout the summer. We found the eBee to be especially useful in evaluating lodging damage in small grains crops and it was an amazingly accurate tool to evaluate spray drift from neighboring crops. A combination of flights using RGB and NIR photography seems to give us the best results. The imagery is importable into the software we use for doing variable rate prescriptions and helps to provide additional information that improves the accuracy of our zoning. The eBee is a very effective tool that is easy to use and gives you immediate results."

Wayne Spurrill, Agronomist
Battle River Implements

Wayne Spurrill, Agronomist

"We use the eBee in central Alberta to monitor crops throughout the summer. We found the eBee to be especially useful in evaluating lodging damage in small grains crops and it was an amazingly accurate tool to evaluate spray drift from neighboring crops. A combination of flights using RGB and NIR photography seems to give us the best results. The imagery is importable into the software we use for doing variable rate prescriptions and helps to provide additional information that improves the accuracy of our zoning. The eBee is a very effective tool that is easy to use and gives you immediate results."

Wayne Spurrill, Agronomist
Battle River Implements

Wayne Spurrill, Agronomist

"We are having a great experience with our five eBees. We fly these simultaneously to produce aerial cartography and to monitor and survey different architectural, agronomy and landscape projects, often on a large scale. We really enjoy interacting with the different files the eBee’s software produces, since each pertains to a specific discipline."

Dr. Mario Rossi, Landscape Manager, Operations / Facilities Section
The Office of H.H. The Crown Prince of Dubai (Government of Dubai), United Arab Emirates

Dr. Mario Rossi, Landscape Manager, Operations / Facilities Section

"I have been cooperating with senseFly for more than five years now. senseFly is a very innovative company, especially in remote sensing for precision agriculture, where they have advanced their contribution tremendously. Our cooperation has been very good and has led to tje mutual advancement of aerial imaging technology in field trials. Our sensefly contacts have always been very supportive."

Ewald Kappes Ph.D., Trialing Expert Indications, Biological Assessment EAME
Syngenta, Switzerland

Ewald Kappes Ph.D., Trialing Expert Indications, Biological Assessment EAME

"The eBee Ag is our main tool for precision agriculture. We have found it a remarkable tool for identifying issues within crops before problems become too severe. When the results from the eBee Ag are coupled with targeted soil testing, exceptionally accurate prescriptions can be made. The eBee’s simplicity and quick results are what have made it so valuable to us."

James O’Neill, Director
Signpost Surveys, Ireland

James O’Neill, Director

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