Tag Archives: UAV

Scouting by Consumer UAV

Consumer UAVs are increasingly seen as farm tools.  Some come with camera and packaged tech for easy flying, pretty much straight out of the box.

But before you leap in, please be aware there are RULES.

We suggest you spend time on the AirShare www.airshare.co.nz and CAA www.caa.govt.nz/rpas/ websites before you get started.  Designed specifically for UAV users they have easy to digest information setting out what you can and cannot do.

DJI Phantom 3

Our package came with all equipment, an extra battery and optional propeller guards packed in a tough custom carry case.  The camera is on a gimbal for steady shots, panning and tilting. Zoom in by getting closer!

A downloaded smartphone or tablet app shows flight information such as height, position and battery charge and lets you see exactly what the camera sees with no delay.

In windy conditions, we achieved about 13 minutes of flight time rather than the 23 minutes stated for each battery charge. Rules say you must be able to see the aircraft with your own eyes so you are probably limited to under 100ha. You could make a reasonable inspection in that time.

Peas and onions from 30m Web

We used the UAV to scout at the LandWISE MicroFarm. Viewed from 30m up, crop variation is immediately obvious.  Pea flowering striping seems to match drill widths. We had variable emergence too so ponder the link. Sprayer runs are visible too.

On the onion side we see thinner areas to the bottom right, and patches where Plant & Food have harvested sample plants as part of our joint OnionsNZ research project.


Viewed from directly overhead we see more of Plant & Food’s research plots, some harvested and some still being followed through to final harvest. The image indicates all these plots are within a reasonably good and even part of the crop.

To the bottom right, a lower wetter area shows lower populations where plants are smaller and fewer made it through establishment.


Dropping to a metre of two above the crop and tilting the camera, we see up close. Because we are seeing what the camera is seeing, we can choose exactly what we want to check and go there immediately.

So we’ve scouted the whole paddock, had a closer look here and there, and if we need to, we can walk to the spots we want to check in detail. The thing is, we know where we should be looking.

Onion Research Underway


After months of planning our OnionsNZ, Plant and Food, Sustainable Farming Fund onion variability project, things are underway at the MicroFarm!

Gerry Steenkamer planted the crop on 2nd August. Rhinestone seed was donated by Vigour Seeds and treated for us by Seed and Field Services. We are very grateful for their support.

An initial residual herbicide application of Dacthal and Stomp was applied. We had a lot of wireweed last year and are keen to get on top of that.

PlantandFoodwebPlant and Food Research staff have established plots for detailed monitoring. They are doing many very detailed individual plant measurements at plot scale. LandWISE is coordinating a number of sensing surveys of the whole crop using a range of technologies.

Plant and Food staff setting up monitoring plots in onions beds. (Wintery southerly)

More details for the research programme and measurements are available on the MicroFarm website.

Plant and Food researchers have developed growth models for a range of crops. This work will help refine their onion growth model, a key to understanding the development and variability in crops. The detailed plot measurements will also be compared with the whole paddock sensor measurements to corroborate and calibrate them.

The first paddock scale surveys have been completed. These give some base information and understanding of the site and it’s variability. Maps as pdfs are available on the MicroFarm website.

One of the first “layers” we can look at is Google Earth imagery – free info on the web! Have a look at your place: use the time slider to view a series of aerial and satellite images captured over recent and not so recent years.


MicroFarm Onion Beds with Winter Cover Crops (as shown on Google Earth image 19 April 2015)
MicroFarm Onion Beds with Winter Cover Crops (as shown on Google Earth image 19 April 2015)

We have posted some of “our place” images and some interpretation here>.

Pagebloomer vsPage Bloomer Associates completed an RTK-GPS survey using Trimble equipment from GPS Control Systems. The data were used to create surface ponding and runoff risk maps.

agriopticsAgriOptics completed a Dual-EM survey in early July. This gave shallow and deep soil information maps. The dry winter means soil had not reached field capacity when the survey was made, so we are a little cautious when interpreting the results. But we risked not getting a survey at all, and by planting in August it had still not rained.  With beds formed and crop planted and emerging, we have no opportunity now to repeat the survey.

AltusUAVAltusUAS has prepared NDVI maps of cover crops from UAV mounted sensors. They will be making repeated measurements as the crop develops. AltusUAS is now using MicaSense technology for efficient multispectral image collection.


ASL_Square_150ASL Software has provided their Cover Map canopy cover measurement tool fitted with high accuracy GPS. We can now use that technology to measure relative plant development and ensure our readings (our mapped data) are located in the correct beds!