Many farms have purchased entry level drones over the last few years with the aim of using them to make more informed crop management decisions (okay, and maybe also to take some nice farm yard photos and epic Facebook videos of machinery in action).
But as Brunel Sabourin of Antara Agronomy explains in this video, a drone, or UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle), can’t tell you the whole story about what’s going on in a crop.
Whether you’re using a regular RGB camera, NDVI imagery or some other advanced sensor, “it’s important to understand what the reasons are in the field for why you see what you see,” he explains.
In many cases, the challenge right now with UAVs is verifying, interpreting and correlating this data — figuring out what the anomalies in the picture mean.
“Everybody’s aware of the term big data, but before we have big data we have to start with little data, and there are so many different variables that affect yield that we need to have a better understanding of what’s happening locally before we start comparing over a wider geography,” he says
In other words, drone imagery is just one layer of information in the picture. It’s complementary to what you see when actually walking the field and the information you get from other tools, such as handheld chlorophyl or NDVI sensors, tissue tests and good old soil testing.
“Now you can say we know this area is different from that area and we know it’s 30 acres, but what are the reasons it’s different? So it’s important to use this imagery, and then get in the fields — and this is a perfect time of year, when there’s still crop out — to see what’s going on,” notes Sabourin. “Are they depressional areas that are drowned out? Is it a soil texture issue? Or are there other underlying factors?”
Check out the video below for more on ground-truthing and interpreting information collected via a drone:
Related: Why Imaging Technology Can’t Replace Scouting Skills
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