One case to use drones on the farm is that they’re a relatively speedy scouting tool – send them up, look at a couple hundred acres of crops and make management decisions based on what you see. But some early adopters of the technology have found their progress grind to a near-halt when it comes to processing any images collected during the flight – sometimes taking a few hours to stitch together.
This “data bottleneck” has caused some new faces in the agriculture industry to look for solutions to this particular problem.
“There’s already a proliferation of agriculture drone companies,” says Mike Ritter, CEO of SLANTRANGE. “The space we fill is in sensors and software – we’re a data delivery company.”
SLANTRANGE got its start in the military and oceanography sectors but sees agriculture as a promising industry to enter. Its analytics capabilities allows it to process data on a 160-acre field in less than five minutes. The company’s sensor system weighs around 300 to 400 grams and is equipped with a GPS and inertial measurement unit (IMU), and is otherwise brand agnostic, according to Ritter.
“All we need is power, so it can be used by any drone,” he says.
SLANTRANGE is working on various agriculture applications, including a population density tool for emerged corn that is able to count the exact number of plants, even in the presence of weeds. Flights later in the season could be used for checking canopy closure, inspecting hail or other weather damage, or measuring the level of grazing in a livestock pasture.
“There are all kinds of applications,” he says.
As avid drone enthusiast and blogger Andrew Nixon points out, there are at least a half-dozen DIY data processing tools on the market. They vary in cost, convenience and usability. Nixon talks more about each one of them here.
“The most challenging part of the agriculture drone surveying process is translating the hundreds of high-res images you just captured into information you can actually use,” he admits. “[Fortunately], it’s not that hard to do or learn.”
Want to learn more about drones in agriculture? Visit www.FarmWithDrones.com.