Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Pilotless Aircraft Will Play Critical Roles in Precision Agriculture

28.01.2015

Comparing an unmanned aerial vehicle to a magnetic resonance imaging machine may seem odd, but that is how the director of the Mississippi State University Geosystems Research Institute sees it.

“The plant is the patient, the agronomists are the doctors, and I am the guy who works on the MRI machine,” said Robert Moorhead, GRI director and Billie J. Ball Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the MSU Bagley College of Engineering.


(Photo by MSU Ag Communications/Kat Lawrence)

Lee Hathcock, a coordinator with the Mississippi State University Geosystems Research Institute, prepared to launch an unmanned aerial vehicle July 17, 2014 at the MSU Black Belt Experiment Station in Brooksville, Mississippi.

UAVs -- flying above tractors but well below manned aircraft -- are the newest instruments used in precision agriculture. Mississippi State holds certificates of authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration to operate UAVs for research purposes, and Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station scientists have been using the remotely piloted aircraft in various studies.

FAA officials are developing regulations for the commercial use of UAVs, and Congress has set a September 2015 deadline for the agency to establish rules specifically for small, unmanned aerial systems. So far, the aerial equipment has been approved for commercial use only in a very limited capacity.

In the meantime, Moorhead and his GRI colleagues are working with MAFES agronomists and MSU Extension Service specialists to incorporate the use of UAVs in site-specific agricultural research. Moorhead said scientists are using the aerial equipment in research related to irrigation, plant growth, nutrient management and herbicide application.

Precision agriculture requires a number of other technologies, including remote sensing, global positioning systems and geographic information systems, Moorhead explained. These technologies are designed to collect and analyze site-specific data that can be used to create and apply effective prescriptions for every inch of an agricultural field.

Before the advent of unmanned aircraft, remote-sensing data had to be collected with satellites, ground instrumentation and piloted aircraft.

“UAVs now are another remote-sensing tool available to collect visual and multispectral data,” Moorhead said. “Precision agriculture is data driven, and UAV technology adds another significant layer of data for researchers and, ultimately, crop consultants and producers to assess and utilize in a meaningful way.”

In one recent study on corn plant growth, GRI personnel worked with Brien Henry, an associate professor in the MSU Department of Plant and Soil Sciences. Henry and his team planted several corn hybrids at various dates and plant densities. From March to May 2014, they planted 20,000 to 40,000 plants per acre in fields at Starkville, Brooksville and Verona.

They used UAVs to collect plant population data, such as emergence progress, plant heights, growth stages, plants per acre and numbers of unfurled leaves. While Henry’s study was in its second year, this was the first time UAV technology was used to augment research on the ground.

“They were flying overhead and collecting visual and multispectral data,” Henry said. “At the same time, the ground team was analyzing the data to ensure images from above was what we were actually seeing on the ground.”

Henry said a primary goal of his research is the development of automated computer programs that can recognize individual seedlings and quickly and accurately determine plant density across a planted field. Spatially explicit maps of plant populations would allow producers to make timely and informed decisions about replanting, he explained.

UAVs are capable of flying as low as 100 feet above the ground, while small, manned aircraft must operate at elevations between 2,000 and 3,000 feet. Of course, satellites can only look down from space orbit. Clearly, a difference in altitude can impact resolutions dramatically.

Henry said UAVs can zoom in to a resolution of approximately one-eighth of an inch, while planes and satellites are limited to collecting images at resolutions of about 18 inches. Also, UAV images may be collected during bad weather, and one UAV can cover approximately 1,000 acres in an hour.

For researchers, the most critical UAV component is its payload system -- the camera. Various payloads can collect both visual and multispectral images and real-time, high-definition video.

The UAV and its payload offer additional advantages, as well:
• Data may be collected as a single image or mosaics showing either portions or an entire field;
• UAVs are much faster to access and less expensive than traditional aircraft used to survey fields; and
• Data from a UAV payload can be immediately downloaded to a tablet or smartphone, which allows researchers to quickly and efficiently evaluate information.

“UAV technology provides additional eyes on the field,” Henry said. “I hope that someday the technology helps producers assess and address potential stand issues quickly and accurately.”

Wes Burger, MAFES associate director, said precision agriculture currently encompasses a vast wealth of data-driven applications.

“These applications are built on sound research that characterizes relationships between observable phenomena and plant performance,” Burger said. “Precision-agriculture research is about connecting data to decisions. The meaningful data within those applications helps drive every decision the farmer makes in the field.”

Burger said the goal of UAV research is to collect data that will augment and improve current management practices so farmers can boost yield, productivity and profit while enhancing environmental stewardship.

Contact Information
Bonnie Coblentz
Media Relations Writer, Editor
b.coblentz@msstate.edu
Phone: 662-325-2901

Vanessa Beeson | newswise
Further information:
http://www.msstate.edu

Further reports about: Agricultural Aircraft Communications Engineering GRI MSU Precision UAV agriculture satellites technologies

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Ammonium nitrogen input increases the synthesis of anticarcinogenic compounds in broccoli
26.04.2017 | University of the Basque Country

nachricht New data unearths pesticide peril in beehives
21.04.2017 | Cornell University

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>