Drones: the Aerial Frontier of Precision Agriculture Technology

Drone technology takes flight as aerial mapping in agriculture becomes commonplace

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Integrating drone-based aerial intelligence into farming requires more than just picking a solid flight platform. Drones, sensors, flight software, and analytics converge into a robust data value chain, forming a powerful ag tech solution.

The role of drone technology on the farm has emerged as farmers embrace precision agriculture in growing numbers


It’s a diligent practice, requiring its practitioners to apply the latest in agriculture technology to measure the various health characteristics of their crops throughout the growing season. When signs of stress arise, precision farmers take action, sometimes down to a granularity of a few square feet.

The benefit is that, by more precisely managing their crops, growers can reduce inputs and intensify yield. Drone technology in agriculture enables farmers to gather the quality and quantity of data required for precision crop management, in a timely and efficient manner.

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Precision Agriculture with Drone Technology

Regardless of whether or not a grower has implemented precision agriculture technology on their farm, there are many ways they can use drone-based aerial intelligence when managing their crops. 

They can scout hundreds--sometimes thousands--of acres in a single day by flying a drone. By capturing visual and multispectral data as they fly, they can get an accurate stand count as early as plant emergence. With high-quality, multi-sensor imagery and analytics, they can track crop progression, manage nutrient input, and make replanting decisions.

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Ultimately, farmers maximize their profitability by using this information in making more efficient and effective planting and input decisions.

On farms across the world, PrecisionHawk’s drone-based crop scouting and precision management technology are supplanting labor- and time-intensive traditional crop management practices.

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

 

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Drone Technology

Drones are more accessible than ever before, with more models offering longer flight times, greater payload capacities and the ability to fly in varying conditions. Selecting the right drone for a given application can be challenging. PrecisionHawk helps ag professionals select the optimal drones and payloads for their given crops of interest, resulting in faster, safer, and more precise data-gathering.

For agriculture, we recommend:

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FireFLY6 Pro/S

Made in the United States, this fixed-wing drone flies faster and covers more ground than multi-rotor technology. Cover up to 600 acres of crops in a single deployment. Launch from anywhere quickly and safely with a Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) form factor requiring a deployment area of only 10 x 10 ft. 

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DJI Matrice 200 v2

The durable M200 is built to fly wherever there are crops. Deploy your drone in sub-zero temperatures or high winds; an enclosed design ensures weather and water resistance, so you can fly in a wide range of environments. Use the dual gimbal to deploy multiple sensor payloads, such as simultaneous visual and thermal sensing.

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DJI Phantom

At a more affordable price point, the DJI Phantom series allows farmers, agronomists, and researchers of any means to apply drone technology to their agriculture operations. This drone’s smart camera offers unprecedented image quality and five directions of obstacle sensing for seamless flying.

Sensor Technology

Mounted to drones, today’s advanced sensor technology has the ability to capture rich, detailed crop and livestock data. Data farmers, agronomists, and crop insurers can use to solve important problems and make more informed decisions. Data that helps agrochemical and seed companies improve their products, reduce costs, and increase efficiencies.

Today’s drone-based sensors are smaller, lighter, more powerful and often more specialized than previous, aircraft-based versions. They can capture various types of data in high-resolution, helping to make your aerial intelligence efforts easier, safer, and more efficient than ever before.

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Thermal

Measuring infrared radiation, thermal sensors detect the relative surface temperature of terrain and objects. The result is thermal imagery that can be used for studying plant physiology, scheduling irrigation, evaluating water pooling, and monitoring livestock.

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Multispectral

A common item in the agronomist’s ag tech portfolio, multispectral sensors capture both visible and invisible light radiation, dividing the spectral data into its individual bands.  It can be used to monitor crop health, determine pest damage, and assess water quality.

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Hyperspectral

Used most commonly in agricultural research applications, such as studying plant physiology and assessing the vigor of closely related crop varieties, powerful hyperspectral sensors collect hundreds of bands of spectral data reflecting from a surface area.

Artificial Intelligence Technology in Agriculture

Machine vision, machine learning, and other emerging technologies within the realm of artificial intelligence (A.I.) have unlocked the power of drone-based aerial imagery. While many businesses tout the power of A.I., it’s often misattributed to more classical forms of computing.

Artificial intelligence is an “umbrella-term” applied to many aspects of precision agriculture platforms, it incorporates many “advanced” computing facilities, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.

Here’s what you need to know in order to distinguish the various fields of artificial intelligence and how it applies to agriculture:

Machine intelligence

The ability of a robot to operate autonomously within its environment, such as the case of drones operating semi- or full-autonomously—reacting to changes in its flight environment over farm fields—to collect data.

Machine vision

the ability of a computer to use imaging-based automatic inspection to extract elements of the environment, such as the case with PrecisionAnalytics Agriculture’s ability to extract plant count, size, and health measures from visual and multispectral imagery.

Machine learning

The ability of a computer to take feedback from the environment or inputs from a user to improve its accuracy, such as how we built PrecisionAnalytics Agriculture using millions of acres of crop data. The more data, the smarter the model.

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All of these powerful technologies are at the foundation of our farm management solution, with the premier component being our analytics software, PrecisionAnalytics Agriculture.

PrecisionAnalytics Agriculture

In PrecisionAnalytics Agriculture, a cloud-based software platform developed specifically for ag professionals, a farmer can monitor crop health and yields, verify stand establishment, and run a myriad of other analytic reports, all at the click of a button.

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Key features include:

View crop imagery: See the health of plants to surface issues such as over-fertilization, flooding, or disease. View detailed imagery and zoom in on areal issues.

Automatic precision plant count and sizing: Use machine vision technology to quantify the number of plants or livestock in an area and outline canopies for larger plants, such as trees or vegetables.

On-demand vegetative indices: Select from GRVI, VARI, NDVI, NDRE, SAVI, and ENDVI analytics to evaluate trends in crop vigor and stress.

Zonal and plot statistics: Shape your analysis to the unique characteristics of a field by defining custom zones or creating automatic and custom-defined plots. You can then calculate aggregated statistics on an area-by-area basis—from large zones to small plots—and export statistics for each one.

Generate prescription maps: Power farm management systems, precision fertilizer applicators, and other precision agriculture technology with instant prescription maps.

Farm organization and shareable web links: Compile your data into a structure that works for your farming operation. Take advantage of cloud-based technology and use one-click sharing to deliver insights to users outside of the system.

Results

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.” 

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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.

 

Smart ag tech for smart ag professionals

It’s not a PDF or a pile of photos. We give you the power to integrate artificial intelligence technology into your farming operations.

10 years of ag tech

As a budding technology startup, we were WineHawk: an aerial robotics company for wine makers. Since then, we’ve built our software offerings to serve farmers of a wide variety of crops.

Trusted by leading agrochemical and seed companies

Our tools are used by some of the world’s leading agronomic enterprises, honed for scientific precision.

Partners to agriculture technology research institutions

We work with the USDA, North Carolina State University, and many other organizations that are advancing the science of agronomy.

Leading sensor technology

Partnering with leading sensor technology 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 technologists 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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