+

Show Navigation
Share:

RDO INTEGRATED CONTROLS BLOG - Blog Entry


Applications for Drones in Agriculture

Applications for Drones in Agriculture

The June 2016 update to the FAA’s Part 107 regulations for flying drones is just one factor contributing to the increase of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) use in several industries, including agriculture. But that’s only half of the story. As anyone in business knows, in order for a tool to make sense on a worksite, it first has to make sense on the bottom line.

In order to see a return from a drone investment on your farm, you need to know how to use a drone to save time, improve efficiency, and increase yields. Then, the real key to unlocking the true value of a drone comes from understanding the technology behind it.

Aerial Imagery
The high-quality images produced by drones are used for everything from pre-season scouting to monitoring crop health to identifying equipment issues. Drones produce three common image types:

Color (RGB)
-RGB images are similar to photos from a regular camera. They’re easy to understand, even for the novice drone user, but are the least descriptive of the three types.

Near Infrared (NIR)
-NIR provides images with higher levels of detail than those produced by RGB by utilizing color bands outside the light spectrum visible to the human eye.

Normalized Difference Vegetative Index (NDVI)
-NDVI uses both visible and near-infrared sunlight reflection to measure biomass (vegetation). Similar to NIR imagery, NDVI provides a higher level of detail than RGB images.

Each of these image types play an important role in the various applications for which drones are used.


Pre-Planning
The coverage area, vantage point, and speed a drone provides makes it a great tool for pre-season scouting. Using standard RGB imagery, the drone can produce 3D maps used for soil evaluations, topography reviews, and identification of drainage issues.

By gathering, reviewing, and evaluating this mapping data prior to planting, you only have a complete view of the whole area, but you may be able to identify problems and adjust planting strategy before, rather than during, the season.


In-Season Assessment
The primary advantage of drones over a manual scouting process is speed. An area normally monitored by a crop scout in several hours can be covered in a single, quick drone flight. This allows for one of the most common uses of drones in agriculture – ongoing monitoring of crop health throughout the season. NIR imagery is most valuable in this process for several reasons. 

First, NIR images show heat so they can easily identify areas of plant and water stress. Their high level of detail offers additional applications such as weed detection, defining management zones, evaluating effectiveness of ponding and water management, and quantifying machinery-induced crop limiting factors. This ability to identify concerns and intervene quickly is directly linked to a better year-end harvest.

There are uses for RGB images in-season as well. They’re often used to identify planter skips and evaluate areas of lost production, allowing you to correct the problems.


Long-Term Analysis
In addition to their immediate help before and during the season, drone use can be beneficial over long periods of time. Like RGB and NIR, NDVI images can also show ponding, help assess crop vigor, and show changes in field conditions over time.

NDVI images measure the amount of biomass or “greenness” of a plant and create an index, which is then compared to areas of less vegetation and more vegetation. The numbers range from -1 to +1, with high amounts of biomass and green vegetation having increasingly positive numbers.

NDVI values are very sensitive to anything that affects light, such as haze, clouds, or even soil. For this reason, NDVI images are most effective in optimum conditions.


Bottom line: A drone is a helpful tool that can provide quality data and images but it’s up to you to analyze data and use it to make the best decisions for the crop and your farm. 


About The Author
Nate Dorsey is an Agronomist for RDO Equipment Co. and based in Moorhead, MN.

Contribution to this article provided by Matt Hayes, Mapping Product Supervisor, and Bill Edmonson, UAV Product Specialist, both for RDO Integrated Controls and based in Billings, MT.

Read the entire version of this article, recently featured in Progressive Forage Grower magazine.

 

Customers Spend a Day in the Dirt to See the Latest in Construction Technology

Customers Spend a Day in the Dirt to See the Latest in Construction Technology

RDO Equipment Co. hosted customers from more than six states at the company’s RDO Days event recently held at the John Deere Construction & Forestry division Proving Grounds near Sacaton, AZ.

The event gave customers an opportunity to get hands-on with the latest in construction technology from John Deere, Topcon and senseFly. Nearly 425 customers representing 200 companies attended RDO Days.

After a presentation by John Deere, Topcon, and RDO Equipment Co. experts on equipment and technology advancements, customers enjoyed lunch and then headed out for a chance to jump in the operator’s seats of any equipment they chose.

In addition to plenty of hands-on time with John Deere dozers, scrapers, loaders, and more, the afternoon featured in-depth workshops focused on topics such as UAV applications, laser scanning, mobile mapping, and Topcon Magnet software.

Dan Baxter, Superintendent at Shimmick Construction Company, Inc. from California noted his goal for the event was to learn more about Topcon technology. “What we have experienced recently while renting equipment from RDO Equipment Co. and now through this event in Arizona, has opened our eyes to more possibilities,” said Dan.

He added, “Every element of the show was intriguing, from seeing the machines and grade control in action,  to hearing from people who have real life stories of how these products have worked for them. We have some tough work ahead of us and I look forward to coming up with solutions together with the RDO Equipment Co. team to help make our projects even more successful.”

“Our goal for events like RDO Days is to forge connections with our stakeholders that are effective, powerful, and mutually beneficial,” stated Christi Offutt, RDO Equipment Co. CEO and Chair of RDO Equipment Co. and R.D. Offutt Company. “It’s about taking the time to meet and learn about our customers’ unique businesses. It’s about those intangible bonds that form when both sides are equally involved.”

Want to learn more about the products demo’d in the dirt? Contact us today!