Drone im­ages not all use­ful

The Northern Star - Northern New South Wales Rural Weekly - - News -

FARM­ERS should be cau­tious of drone im­agery be­ing of­fered by rogue op­er­a­tors, re­searchers have warned.

The Univer­sity of Queens­land and Univer­sity of New Eng­land col­lab­o­ra­tive study has shown that “off-the-shelf” drone im­agery prod­ucts, sold to grow­ers for up to $4000 per farm in some cases, are un­likely to pro­vide ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion about the health of crops. Re­searcher Yu-Hsuan Tu, from the Joint Re­mote Sens­ing Re­search Pro­gram at UQ’s Re­mote Sens­ing Re­search Cen­tre, said he could un­der­stand why farm­ers would be tempted to use drone tech­nol­ogy for farm man­age­ment.

“Drones can be de­ployed quickly to gen­er­ate high res­o­lu­tion im­ages at­trac­tive to grow­ers seek­ing leaf-scale mon­i­tor­ing of their farms,” Mr Tu said.

“How­ever our re­search has shown that the high-tech, multi-spec­tral sen­sors used to collect im­ages from the drone must be pro­cessed in a cer­tain way to ob­tain cor­rect in­for­ma­tion for hor­ti­cul­tural farm­ing ap­pli­ca­tions.”

He said one of the big­gest prob­lems in the use of drones was re­lated to in­con­sis­ten­cies in the way light is re­flected off the sur­face of veg­e­ta­tion, de­pend­ing on the height at which a drone is flown and its an­gle to the sun.

Such in­con­sis­ten­cies could re­sult in farm­ers be­ing given the wrong in­for­ma­tion about their crops if the data isn’t pro­cessed in the right way by ex­pe­ri­enced op­er­a­tors with re­mote sens­ing ex­per­tise.

Mr Tu has cre­ated an al­go­rithm that cor­rects these vari­a­tions in re­flectance to en­sure the de­liv­ery of con­sis­tent data for farm­ers.

He is now work­ing to es­tab­lish stan­dard­ised pro­to­cols for the ac­qui­si­tion and pro­cess­ing of drone im­agery for tree crops to as­sist com­mer­cial sup­pli­ers and grow­ers. Un­til then, he said farm­ers should un­der­take ap­pro­pri­ate due dili­gence be­fore spend­ing.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

DRONE IM­AGES: Farm­ers are be­ing warned about im­agery pro­vided by “off the shelf” prod­ucts.

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