John Nowatzki and Sreekala Bajwa 2016-05-03 02:01:44
Researchers in the Department of Agricultural and Bio systems Engineering at North Dakota State University (NDSU) are leading an applied research project that uses both large and small UAS. The project, titled “Large-scale UAS data collection, processing, and management for field crop management,” uses UAS to collect high-resolution imagery for use in precision crop management decisions. Project objectives include comparing the usefulness and economics of imagery collected from large and small UAS operated at various altitudes with satellite imagery for field crop management. The researchers are collaborating with North Dakota crop producers to correlate the aerial imagery to detailed soil analyses and field observations, in-field optical sensor data, and crop harvest yield data in selected fields. The UAS carry color, infrared, thermal, multispectral, and hyperspectral sensors to collect the remotely sensed data. Size matters Most UAS used in the U.S. to date for agricultural research or commercial applications are small, less than 55 lb (25 kg). There are many uses for small UAS in crop and livestock production. Small UAS are ideal for scouting crops and livestock, and they can capture imagery for precision management decisions involving variable-rate fertilization, weed identification, livestock inventory, and identifying sick animals. However, small UAS are limited by flight time, so they cannot easily capture imagery of thousands of acres on the same day. Most small UAS need to capture hundreds of individual images to make a single mosaicked image of one square mile; a large UAS can capture high-resolution imagery of one square mile in a single image. Large UAS will therefore be needed to collect high spatial and temporal resolution imagery over entire regions in a timely manner. This will make it possible to capture imagery usable for precision crop management over hundreds of thousands of acres in a single day at very high resolution. The imagery could be processed into usable crop management information, stored in the cloud, and made available for growers to download for individual fields at a specific cost per acre. Project essentials and details NDSU’s “Large-scale UAS data collection, processing, and management for field crop management” project is a collaborative effort with the NDSU Extension Service, the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, Elbit Systems of America, and selected crop and livestock producers. The Northern Plains UAS Test Site, one of six FAA Test Sites, is coordinating safety issues for the project. Since the FAA currently requires UAS to be flown within line of sight, the North Dakota Wing of the Civil Air Patrol flies a chase plane in formation with the large UAS during all test flights. The project is jointly funded by a Research ND grant and the private sector partner, Elbit Systems of America. Elbit is supplying a Hermes 450 UAS equipped with a Visonmap A3 Edge CIR digital camera that produces both RGB and NIR imagery. The Hermes 450 is powered by an internal combustion engine, has a 35 ft (10.7 m) wingspan, and a flight duration of more than 15 hours. The small UAS used in the project include Phantom Pro 3 and 3DR X8 rotocopters and Trimble UX5 and Troybuilt RF70 fixed-wing aircraft. Imagery will be collected over a 4 mile × 40 mile (6.4 km × 64 km) corridor in eastern North Dakota with the large UAS at altitudes of 8,000 ft, 5,000 ft, and 3,000 ft (2400, 1500, and 900 m) during eight separate weeks in the 2016 crop growing season. During the same weeks, project investigators will use the small UAS to collect imagery at altitudes of 400 ft (122 m) and below. In addition to the imagery from the large and small UAS, project personnel are purchasing RapidEye satellite imagery collected throughout the growing season. Crop management objectives include conducting stand counts in row crops, in-season nitrogen management in corn and wheat, crop yield predictions, and identifying symptoms of selected crop diseases and insect infestations. This project will be first of its kind to use a large UAS in agricultural application in the U.S., and it will provide benchmark data to guide “beyond line-of-sight” flight operations with UAS in the future. ASABE member John Nowatzki, Agricultural Machine Systems Specialist, Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, North Dakota State University, Fargo, USA, firstname.lastname@example.org. ASABE member Sreekala Bajwa, Chair, Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, North Dakota State University, Fargo, USA, email@example.com.
Published by ASABE. View All Articles.