Agronomists take flight with drone-based image recognition software

A team of about 400 Corteva Agrisciences agronomists across North America are now well-equipped with a fleet of drones, developed with DJI, and proprietary Corteva Flight software. The technology is taking off in eastern Canada and will soon be available in the west.

Bernard Tobin was recently joined by Chris Olbach, Ontario agronomist with Corteva Agriscience to talk about Corteva Flight and its fleet of drones.

The traditional method for scouting corn is picking out 17.5 feet for every 100 feet of row, and counting plants for a plant stand assessment, but with challenging conditions this past spring, technology can be utilized to more quickly and accurately assess something like stand counts — from the air.

“Corteva Flight takes a different approach — I can get a tenth of an acre sample, using this drone to take a quick snapshot of the field in that particular area, then it’ll run that software on the picture to get a scan count,” says Olbach.

A gap count and different metrics can also be calculated to help a grower understand their stand better. In about 20 minutes, 60 images can be collected, and by the time the drone reaches the edge of the field again, that information is analyzed and available.

The software works well for corn and soybean stand counts, but other applications will be developed in the future.“What makes Corteva Flight such an incredibly powerful tool is its ability to overcome sample biases of stand assessment in the past,” says Dave Harwood, technical services manager for Corteva Agriscience. “A tenth of an acre sampled more frequently and across a wider area provides more accuracy and efficiency that’s far less subject to error.”

The cost of flights and images is integrated into the agronomic services that Corteva Agrisciences and Pioneer representatives provide. The nine drones that were deployed in eastern Canada have already paid dividends for farmers, says Harwood.

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