How Much Do I Need to Spend?
Drones with visual spectrum (traditional) cameras such as the DJI Mavic 3 Multispectral with a 20 mp camera and Multispectral sensors are a great choice for 1st level inspection and mapping. When you’re ready to invest in a weather tolerant, professional drone like the DJI Matrice 300 Series, you can purchase a base unit and expand as your needs change. The beauty of the Matrice series drones is their modularity, so purchasing an agriculture-specific NDVI camera that allows for a 10-second swap between visual and near-IR imaging. You can also add the professional Rededge-P or Altum-PT for multispectral imaging. We rent and sell every drone we carry, contact us for rental or purchase when you are ready.
How Agricultural Drones Fit Into the Precision Ag Ecosystem
Drones supplement other precision agricultural collection methods (like the sensors in your planter, harvester, and irrigation systems) by providing both the “big picture” and the “small picture.”
Overview mapping of the “Big Picture”
To get the “big picture”, we see our clients buy or rent a farming drone to get detailed, high-resolution maps of their entire farm or ranch using multiple smaller photos and image-stitching software from companies like Drone Deploy or Pix4d. Once these georeferenced, orthomosaic maps are created, growers can get an overview and look for problem spots right away. Ranchers will often use these larger images to see where patches have become over-grazed and need time for recovery.
Close-Up Problem Solving of the “Small Picture”
When a problem spot is identified, you can then use an ag drone to look at a specific spot on the field by descending to just a few feet above the problem area and recording close-up pictures and video to determine the next steps. Modern farming drones have such excellent cameras that individual weeds can be identified using this technique. Moreover, with live-video control ranges of around 4 miles, almost every farm in the US can be scouted and mapped by a single ag drone each.
Beyond-Visual Imaging Overview
With farming drones and UAVs that use traditional cameras (i.e. “RGB” sensors for red, green, blue), you can replace expensive manned aircraft and helicopter flights that could cost thousands of dollars per hour. With agricultural-specific sensors like an NDVI-modified camera, you can replace beyond-visual imaging that was once only possible through satellite imaging.
What is NDVI?
NDVI is an acronym that refers to the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index. Subtracting the data of an image taken with a traditional RGB camera sensor from an image taken using a sensor that can see into the infrared spectrum (“near-IR”, but still invisible to our eyes) yields an entirely new image that shows the overall health of a plant. Depending on the species of crop, NDVI drones combine individual portions of the near-IR and visible spectra to show areas where irrigation, fertilization, pests or disease are causes for concern. Healthy plants and stressed plants that look identical to the naked eye reflect differently in the near-infrared spectrum. This unique facet of NDVI imaging with drones means that you can detect and prevent problems well before the season’s output is impacted.
More than just diagnosing problems, you can use an NDVI drone to predict harvest yields much sooner than has been possible before. This fascinating case study shows that just 42 days after planting the scientists were able to predict the results of the different treatments applied. This ability has powerful implications for pricing or futures contracts, insurance, labor and equipment planning, as well as your general peace of mind. Combined with regular, automated flights and integration into your existing software and sensor data, NDVI imaging from agricultural drones has the potential to completely transform your approach to farming.