UAS over fields

An unmanned aircraft system device may be parked alongside tractors and combines in farm machine sheds in the very near future, according to the presenters at day two of the Precision Ag Action Summit Tuesday. The seminar was held at the North Dakota Farmers Union Conference Center and highlighted technology in agriculture

“The UAS is a lot of fun, and we won’t dismiss the fun factor,” said Kevin Price, professor of agronomy at Kansas State University. “But it is an imaging system. You need to turn those pictures into data that can be used for decision making.”

Price said UAS equipment is often called drones although that sometimes has a military connotation in some people’s minds. The equipment most often used in agriculture operations is referred to as a small UAS, abbreviated sUAS, a device weighing less than 55 pounds.

The sUAS is often fitted with cameras that measure visible light along with near infrared light. Computer mapping software adjusts the image for variables such as the altitude of the drone and angle of the camera. The software also compares the red light reflected by the plants to the near infrared light to determine the normalized difference vegetation index, Price said. This index can be expressed as a color or a number and represents the health of the plants in the field.

Other uses can include measuring heights of crops, determining germination rates, monitoring insect damage and monitoring the health of cattle in feedlots.

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