Phil Busey Agronomy
Consulting Inc.


Drones in Agriculture and Landscape Assessment

by Phil Busey   social icons twitter facebook youtube linkedin

AR Drone near soybean field.


Brookside Laboratories Autosampler.


The portability and excellent optics of drones allow for an expanded and efficient platform to view field conditions including landscape assessment. If you have ever had to walk a corn field you will appreciate the advantages of seeing the crop from the air rather than the ground. For the sports turf manager, drones may allow you to quickly map the weed and mole cricket populations, and pinpoint areas requiring sampling for possible nematode infestation.

At the 2013 Summer Conference of the Brookside Society of Professional Consultants, we toured the excellent new Brookside Laboratories facility in New Bremen, Ohio, including multitudinous equipment such as the autosampler (below). This will allow rapid and high volume extraction of soil, water, and environmental samples. There were also demonstrations of the use of drones for agriculture and landscape assessment.

Radio controlled vehicles have been in use since 1898 when they were first demonstrated by Tesla, and have been used by hobbyists for decades. Miniaturized circuits and computers have created new tools for crop health assessment. Seeing a big picture of a sports turf field, golf course green, soybean field, or wetland can combine with ground truth assessment, such as soil sampling and analysis, parasitic nematode assessment, to yield a better interpretation of what's happening.

After several decades of research on remote sensing usually involve satellites and high altitude imagery, and difficult interpretation of near infrared and multispectral imaging, the inexpensive drone adds something special. It enhances the power of the human brain to interpret visual images from a near altitude. Heads up!