Experience using a Quadcopter/Hexacopter setup for agricultural imaging/farm use?


I am looking at buying/building a hexacopter for farm use. Looking to use a multispectral camera on it (like the parrot sequoia, agrobotix or agrocam).

I need at least a 20min flight time. Payload is not that heavy. Those cameras together with gimbal should not weigh more than 1kg.

I was looking to build one based on the Tarot frames. 

While researching I found this built which pretty much matches what I thought would be fit for my purpose:


Does anyone have any experience with this type of built for farm use?

Or any experience with any frame for farm use?

Maybe you can suggest a better solution than the one I found?

Any input is much appreciated.

Thank you

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I hadn't seen the AgroCam units before, probably since it is EU based. They look like modified GoPro H3 clones. It's a good price for a starter NDVI camera...similar to my modified S100 with the Event38 NGB filter. The prices on ag mapping can get crazy so if you're not doing it professionally, it's best to start with lower cost components. As Andrew mentioned, the higher priced cameras improve sensitivity but may be pricey for entry level NDVI.

I lost my subscription to Pix4D so I am now trying the Fiji ImageJ app with Ned Horning's plug-ins for NDVI. The FireFLY6 Pro model is rather expensive but it is a solid performer with APM Copter under the hood. My DIY FireFLY6 was much less expensive but you need to know what you're doing to make it work.

The VTOL concept, along with all the take-off and landing benefits, opened the door for greater mapping area coverage in a given time period. The FF6 Pro can cover 450 acres (182hectares) in a single 45 minute flight so my DIY FireFLY6 can cover half of that. This concept is now being tested on the relatively new QuadPlane features of APM Plane. My Ranger EX hasn't flown a mapping survey yet but it can hold multiple cameras and can fly longer than the FlireFLY6 for a fraction of the cost.

You'll find alot of the NDVI results are subjective, so, if you start with lower cost cameras, you can customize your own baselines for your specific farm and crops. Here are a few videos from my initial survey flights.

FireFLY6 Mapping Test 1 from Gregory Covey on Vimeo.

FireFLY6 Mapping Survey 2 from Gregory Covey on Vimeo.

RT said:

thank you, good info. 

the FireFLY6 looks great, a little expensive for me to start with.

the Ranger EX Quad conversion looks really good. Can you fit both S100 cameras on the Ranger?

Also what area are you able to photograph with your planes and MRC? 

I am looking to cover 50Ha (btw i am based in Europe) to start with. Ideally it should not take more than 3 hours of field work.

The s100s look like a nice good value solution for ndvi. I also found http://www.agrocam.eu/ . good prices.

Do you use pix4 software to process the images? I found that the software for processing/analysis can be quite expensive.

Whats wrong with a Phantom 4 Pro?

andrew cutter said:

450 is beyond the line of sight ? if so , its currently illegal to do so . FAA hasn't given out BYLS waivers . Plus you would need to go the cloud for the necessary processing speed . 80 hectare would be cost prohibited with the current cost of everything.  I stay would with the very basic until prices come down a lot . this maybe 2-4 years away.

I will be using pixhawk2 in the near future . Firefly would not be able to support slantrange . downside of slantrange is fixwing or small payload bay.

The less overlap and no cloud processing features are quite attractive.

Probably a custom gimbal can't be that expensive. Surprised there isn't one that would fit the camera. Maybe in a few months.

Aglyx seems to be exactly the app for crop management via ndvi.


andrew cutter said:

Slant range and red edge are price about  the same . You get higher resolution , less over lap required (which means more acre covered and more images )  , on board processing and the ability to analyze the picture with your laptop vs going to the cloud with red edge to have it process and analyze. You save processing cost vs the red edge . one of the problems with slant range for me is mounting it to the quad copter . I would have to have a custom made gimbal (current their isn't one available ) . I have a farmer friend fields to learn on . wheat , soybean and corn . Its important to have a few season under you belt . The ability to compare different years helps you to know how  good of job you are doing or not . Store the images in the cloud is a must . nvdi images take up alot of memory. Crop management . - helps with inputs (roi) , plant stress ,  pests , cuts down ground truthing or crop scouting , predict what type of harvest you might have , helps with crop damage from storm (nvdi helps with getting the real damage cause to your crops , not what your eyes can only see ) .

I think a Phantom 4 pro is not a flexible enough platform.

And not suitable for agricultural imaging. Also a quad.

Dji M100 or Inspire1 seem better but they come at quite a price.

Gary Mortimer said:

Whats wrong with a Phantom 4 Pro?

Hi, I like share my mapping experience with RPAs or drones, first you don´t need gimbal, the program you use could correct the minor camera angles. Second, any multicopter is not suitable for long photogrametry areas. You must use a fixed wing dron. Third but not least, you need a dedicated camera to obtain a good information, in this aspec, inexpensive cameras are not good invertion. modified cameras only capture IR light, but you need at least NIR and and red o RGB to obtain NDVI indicator.

You can see this example link.

Is not a NDVI map, but is the same work with a different camera.

Good luck and best regards.

PS: English is not my native language.

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