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14 Real-Life Drone Lessons

20:36PM Oct 08, 2014

On Twitter, Iain Butler is simply known as “The UAV Guy.” Butler works for Kextrel, a consulting group that works with a lot of precision ag technology, including drones. Earlier this fall, he spent a bit of time at a California vineyard figuring out some of the different ways he could use drones on the farm.

“So what are drones good for? Well a lot, actually, as it turns out,” he says.

Butler tested numerous aspects of drone operation, including lift capacity/endurance, flight planning and autonomous flights, camera setup, image gathering and data analysis. He wrote about his experiences in great detail here.

Butler says he came away learning 14 valuable lessons about operating drones. And even though his experiences were centered in California wine country, much of the following advice translates well for any farmer who wants to operate a drone efficiently and effectively, regardless of crop or location.

1. Keep it simple

2. If it can go wrong it will go wrong

3. Preplan your mission, do a site visit or use Google Earth for site info

4. The higher you fly, the less images you need which means less processing time

5. The higher you fly, the larger the area you can map

6. Always check your images when in the field

7. Fly at noon to limit shadows from the vines

8. Use an observer

9. Crop analysis is 20% flying and 80% data processing

10. Image processing takes lots of computing power, get a fast processor with lots of memory

11. High quality images equates to high quality crop analysis, poor images mean poor data

12. Aerial images and analysis needs to be correlated with ground data to be effective

13. Normal photographs and video in RGB is almost as invaluable as NGB to the vineyard owner

14. Drone NDVI mapping becomes effective with vineyards greater than 50 acres

For AgWeb’s complete lineup of drone coverage, go to