Rothamsted launches aerial eye to monitor crops

THE Rothamsted Research institute is set to launch an unmanned ‘aerial eye’ into the sky to monitor crops as part of various genetic improvement research projects.

The Hertfordshire-based institute, with the help of funding from BBSRC, has obtained a high performance radio remote-controlled ‘octocopter drone’ equipped with four cameras.

The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) equipment will enable researchers to collect data from experimental crop plots at the various sites where the institute is conducting research.

The octocopter, a standard 8 rotor battery powered unmanned aerial vehicle, is typically used in the film industry. Four cameras have been added, two of which at any time can give a live feed of their picture to a monitor on the ground.

Rothamsted said collecting data in this way will give ‘unique perspectives’ on crop growth and plant functioning. Researchers hope it will also ‘vastly extend capabilities for screening crops of different genetic background for performance, nutrition, stress, pathogen and disease responses’.

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