Suggestion for drones for surveying very large areas

We need to survey about 23,000+ Hectares of agriculture land and wondering what drone options we got given

(a) We have to survey really large area and small amount of time.

(b) We need to scan whole area say 3-4 times in a 8 months, over the season of crop to record growth.

(c) RGB + NDVI camera is good enough for now.

(d) Drone which is easy to repair, as I am sure there will be many crashes during operations..

Would it make more sense for to assemble it our own given we would need bunch of them, and we would need quick turn around time in case of repair/crash...

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  • RG,  

    For your project I would suggest a fixed wing, like the Precision Hawk "Lancaster" or a flying wing, like the SenseFly eBee.

    To use a multi-copter would take much too long and require too many flights to be productive.  Also you may want to consider using the PixHawk flight controller and APM "Mission Planner" as that combination will give you an excellent result for plotting your flights.  Multiple Air frames and pilots may be necessary but you should calculate how much one Air frame can cover in Hectares in one day of flights and then make your decision as to if you will need more than one.  You should consider getting some extra parts and electronics for those occasions that would require some repairs in the field.  Good luck with your project.

    • Agreed, planning on fixed wing, but with so many options and variables was wondering which fixed wing option would be best here.

  • I can easily map over 400 Ha on a single flight with an APM equipped Skywalker.  It is very durable and easy to repair in case you crash your plane. One of mine have mapped more than 27,000 HAs and still available for next project.  I think it is the cheapest option, especially if you can build it yourself. This is important as it enable you to build more than one aircraft on a tight budget. With this scheme, you may fly more than one UAV at a time. Based on my experiences, it is easy enough to fly 3 UAVs at a time by 2 operators. 

    • Thanks Wahono, can you share more, my email

  • Where are you located?

    • This project in discussion is for India

  • In no order whatsoever:

    Two or more fixed wing drones.
    Petrol powered may be a good option.
    A fleet of cheap drones may be a better option than two $4k pro models if crashes are expected.
    Set up a standard conservative flight plan and just drag it around to create a patchwork - literally colour in a map to record progress.
    What is the minimum pixel size required?
    Have on and off site backups for everything, every flight should be backed up individually, with off site backups every day.

    Is there a good internet connection (how good?), or will you have to post process, or bring a server with you for number crunching and storage? What is the turn around time for the data? Sounds like it can be quite long if they are mapping a whole season.

    Is the area vaguely square, or long and thin, or irregular? Flat or hills?
    A big solar panel and a generator for the charging station.
    Does nvdi imagery change through the day?
    Unless you have worked with your planes for a long time, plan to land every flight manually.

    I'm sure there is more to it than I'm pointing out...
  • Hi RG, we conducted a series of testings on 2014 too determine, among other things, how the logistics for gathering imagery in extensive agriculture operations works. One of our conclusions was that the drone (or even multiple drones) has a very limited performance in terms of gathering rate (hectares per hour or day), besides, all the post processing, given that each image covers a small portion of land, is tedious and consumes a lot of man and computer power. For that reason, we concluded that this platform, even if you go to large (and expensive) ones, even if you use a fleet instead on a single drone, and even if you use a autonomous flight system, has very low work capacity for extensive agriculture, and it ends up being time consuming, complicated and expensive.

    Having said that, during the testings we perceived that aerial imagery of high resolution and fast availability (short time between it is acquired and it is in the hands of the user) still has a lot of potential for extensive agriculture. I am talking in our environment, our crops, and our production system. This is The Pampas region, in Argentina, South America, crops: soybeans, corn and wheat, in that order of importance. +90% of the fields no-till. Average field size: 65 hectares, min: 35 has, max: 250 has.

    That´s the reason why, on 2015, capitalising the experience acquired in 2014, we decided to do a similar thing, but with a different platform: a manned aircraft (sorry if I jump out of the scope of this discussion now). We are in about 2/3 of season progress (most corn field tasseling) right now, and the results so far have been exceeding our expectations. The airplane turned to be by far a less expensive platform, still being able to deliver high resolution imagery.

    I hope you find this to be useful, and I am open to further questions. By the way, where do you need to conduct your survey?

    • @Jose

      Exactly what I think. The big data it's a big problem.

    • India

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