UAVs checking health of Tassie crops

By on 12 April, 2011
The University of Tasmania's Terraluma team is using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to check the health of farmers' crops, in the hope of being able to provide a commercial crop mapping service.
Using a UAV known as the ‘oktocopter’, the researchers are hoping to gather useful data on how the crops look at key periods in the growing season, after a big storm, after rainfall events, or other ‘before and after’ comparisons.
In order to best analyse the effect that an event has had on a crop, data needs to be captured as soon as possible after the event. The fact that a UAV can get up in the air to record data much faster and cheaper than a manned craft is one of the key benefits of the project.
The oktocopter can cover about 2 ha in one flight, but the researchers are also testing a larger version that can cover larger areas and carry more sensors. The current version carries both a visible and a near-infrared camera, as well as a LiDAR scanner for creation of a digital elevation model, and captures the data at centimetre to decimetre resolutions.
The team sees applications for the project in a wide range of mapping and monitoring applications, such as vegetation mapping, precision agriculture, viticulture (frost and vigour mapping), coastal morphology (beach and dune profiles), landslide mapping, forestry, power line scanning, mining, etc.

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