Drone mapping in agriculture on the rise

ABC Rural - WA Country Hour - Tyne Logan

Type: Article
Knowledge level: Introductory

Farm Table says:

This article focuses on three perspectives of on-farm drone use - the start-up business, the researcher and the farmer.

This article from the WA Country Hour focuses on the increasing use of drones to assess crop health through infrared mapping.

Start-ups companies are using drones to assess crop health and providing a service back to farmers and agronomists are also taken up the technology. The drones can be used to map a range of different agricultural crops including broad acre, vineyards, horticulture, and orchards. Maps seem to work best in broadacre if done right after germination.

Although the normalised difference vegetation index (NDVI) mapping method is not new, it is now can provide far more detailed map resolutions.They can now measure areas in centimetres, rather than metres, and using them is relatively fast and cheap.

What does it cost?

Jonathon Smith, Status Imaging Director, stated in the article that “imagery and processes that they were using cost farmers between $3.50 and $7/ha depending on overall size of land and the type of crop.”

What is the benefit?

“By having this information up-front they may be able to turn that from that being a $3,000 to $4,000 a tonne [yield] to $5,000 a tonne depending on what the issue actually is,” Smith said.

Alternatively, there are options for cost reductions through minimising spray and input costs.

Where is the opportunity at now?

Farmers are not completely sold on the cost benefit of the technology and service yet. One farmer manager, Andrew Clarke, stated that “At the early stages, probably to the extent that they’re saying to fly three or four times over your crop I can’t see that really justifying the whole huge areas.”

He concluded that further down the track, once the start-up businesses got more knowledge of what can be identified via map, he thought it would be most useful to farmers.

2017 - Australia - ABC Rural - WA Country Hour - Tyne Logan
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