Using Drones to Manage Nut Orchards

Inventory and track nut tree size, catch early signs of disease, and take steps to mitigate weather damage

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Nut farmers can improve how they grow and track their yield with precision agriculture. Use drone-based data and analytics to inventory, catch signs of disease, and reduce freeze damage.

As perennial crops, nut trees face threats from excessive hot and cold weather. In fact a recent four-year drought in California caused the output of almonds to decrease by 2 billion lbs/year. And hot, humid weather creates a breeding ground for diseases like almond anthracnose. 

To manage the risk of damage from weather and disease, nut farmers can use drone technology to closely monitor their orchards:

  • Plant counting and canopy sizing. Replace ground-based sampling by using drones and A.I. to count and size trees. Use quantitative analytics to surface replanting opportunities and deliver instant comparisons on tree age and vigor. 
  • Stress and disease monitoring. Apply a vegetative index to immediately surface indicators of stress, such as fading leaf vigor. Use plot tools to and thermal indices to manage fertilizer and irrigation inputs and lessen freeze damage. 
  • Precision input application. Draw from vegetative indices and zoning tools to apply tailored nutrient inputs to given trees, or areas of the orchard. 

By monitoring tree age and vigor and adjusting inputs to specific zones, nut farmers are saving time and costs, and optimizing the health of their yield.

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Use Drone-Based Analytics to Manage your Nut Farm



Fly a range of ready-to-fly drone and sensor hardware, field-tested for nut orchards, to gather high-quality tree data
Process & Analyze
Use vegetative indices to catch trends in tree health, manage nutrient and irrigation inputs, and mitigate the risk of disease spreading
Generate tree inventories and export customized PDF reports

Harvest Nut Tree Data with Drones

Access a range of purpose-built flight and sensor hardware configurations, ideal for nut grove management, such as:

  • DJI Phantom 4 or DJI Mavic drones outfitted with RGB sensors for tree canopy sizing and aging
  • The DJI M200 drone equipped with a MicaSense RedEdge-MX or MicaSense Altum multispectral/thermal sensors for more precise leaf vigor, heat stress, and soil moisture analysis

When and How to Gather Nut Tree Data with Drones

Nut tree farmers can deploy drones during the growing season and before harvest to track tree growth and prepare data for insurance audits. The relative large size of nut trees allow operators to fly at higher altitudes while still capturing precise data on a field, row, or individual tree--including tree health, size, and vigor.

Farmers can also draw on the expertise of our robust network of certified drone pilots. Our pilots in California and across the nation are ready to deploy within a day’s notice, to help farmers gather the data they need to improve their orchard management decisions. 

Talk to our team about your goals to learn if drone-based aerial intelligence is right for your farming operation.


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Process & Analyze with PrecisionAnalytics Agriculture

In PrecisionAnalytics Agriculture, a farmer can monitor tree health, verify inventory, and run a myriad of other analytic reports within minutes.
By catching signs of stress earlier, orchardists can more quickly identify diseases like crown gall or almond anthracnose and take steps to quarantine an infected zone or manage inputs to mitigate freeze damage and sunburn. In case of a drought, zone and plot statistics enable farmers to create irrigation management zones.

Plant Count and Sizing

PrecisionAnalytics Agriculture’s plant count and sizing tool gives instant, accurate counts of the trees in a field and enables farmers to track size comparison across a season, or multiple years.

  • Define an area--by canopy size/age, nut type, or another measure, and count the number of trees in it.
  • Inventory-- track year-over-year tree counts and nut production and store documents safely in the cloud for insurance audits
  • View full-resolution imagery and zoom in on issues such as leaf yellowing or browning.

Vegetation Indices

Traditionally, farmers would inspect soil or leaf samples of individual trees to test for disease or other stressors. But this only provides information about that specific tree or zone, and may leave other potential problems undiagnosed until it’s too late to take action. With Vegetative indices, farmers can apply an index such as NDVI over data from their entire orchard. By adjusting the near-infrared indices, they can catch subtle changes in leaf color and vigor on a single tree or multiple trees at a time. They can even distinguish between tree canopies and harmful weeds. Then, they can ground-truth and verify the source of the problem.

PrecisionAnalytic’s vegetation indices enable farmers to use NDVI, GLI, and VARI, to identify early indicators of and trends in crop stress, which might indicate:

  • Disease--catch cracked soil, stunted growth, blossom blight, spur and limb dieback, and faded watery lesions across the orchard, a zone, or a single tree 
  • Weeds--compare biomass between nut tree canopies and a  range of weeds to manage herbicide inputs 
  • Irrigation--monitor the soil moisture levels and lessen the risk of disease growth, sunburn or freeze damage

In the field, farmers can geolocate themselves on their mobile device to quickly identify where an area of concern is relative to their position.


Custom Zones and Comparison View

Diseases like crown gall spreads easily by soil and water contamination or by damage from pruning tools. Almond anthracnose thrives in warm, damp environments. Once a disease, or threat of it, has been identified, farmers can create custom quarantine and input management zones. This enables them to know exactly where an infection is on the map, track disease progression on infected trees, and take steps to manage their healthy trees. This can lessen the risk of disease spreading and destroying a yield.

With zonal tools, nut farmers can: 

  • Segment trees by age/canopy size and health
  • Create custom quarantine zones on the map
  • Get accurate tree counts for each zone, whether it’s 10 rows or 100 rows, and number zones 
  • Track heat or frost stressors and tailor inputs to specific zones


Accelerating agriculture research

An agribusiness research company tested drones on the crops it grew at its research stations. Instead of surveying plots manually it deployed drones. The results:

2.5X more efficient than sampling
25% more accurate than hand counts
Surveyed full plots instead of sampling 10% to 40% of the field

Read the case study →

BASF quantified turf improvements

By quantifiably measuring sprig growth and green quality, BASF Turf and Landscape proved a 24 percent increase in Green Level Index for sprigs treated with Lexicon®. Now, according to Gary Myers, CGCS, BASF Pinehurst Project Lead, BASF is able to “use the data as the foundation of [their] presentations to prospective customers and golf course superintendents.” 

Read the case study →

Why PrecisionHawk?

We’ve built our offerings to scale. From investing in geospatial science expertise to understanding the regulatory environment, we’re able to support a one-time flight or a fully integrated enterprise aerial intelligence program.


Industry-leading data delivery
Our cloud is optimized to deliver high-resolution imagery and analytics in near real-time. Our robust machine learning-based algorithms are built for counting and sizing tree canopies, and identifying changes in leaf vigor.



Network of Experienced Pilots
Whether you’re using aerial intelligence for the first time or the 100th time, our network of trained, credentialed drone pilots are on-call to help you get the most data out of each flight.
More than just imagery
Partnering with leading manufacturers MicaSense, Headwall, and DJI, our system processes data from a range of visual, thermal, multispectral, and hyperspectral sensors--purpose-built for vegetative analysis.
Ag tech by ag pros
Our industry-leading team of Ph.D. and remote sensing-accredited geospatial analysts ensure our ag tech follows leading agronomic science principles.


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Redefine the limits of yield intensification, using drone-based data collection and analytics.

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