Monitoring and modelling crop growth using a low-cost unmanned aerial vehicle

Aerial remote sensing of crops is used in precision agriculture to provide field-scale data to inform farming practices. Imaging using satellites and aircraft is expensive, which has limited the widespread adoption of this approach. Low-cost unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and lightweight camera systems are now available which can make remote imaging more accessible.

In this feasibility study, we assessed (1) the repeatability and practicality of using a low-cost UAV to image the same crop over time, and (2) the accuracy of aerial-based vegetative indices from a multispectral camera in comparison to groundtruth data captured by more traditional instruments, with a view to assessing the feasibility of using this data in models. Together, this will provide an assessment of the practicality, accuracy and reproducibility of using a low-cost UAV and light-weight multispectral camera for high-frequency crop assessment, providing a solid grounding for future funding applications in this field.

This project was funded as part of the Bridging the Gaps Next Generation Feasibility Awards 2012.

Videos: On the CPIB channel on YouTube

NDVI vs. near-IR coloured image