Dear UAV fellows,

now that I have a drone with RGB and NGB cameras onboard, Pixhawk working well (except airspeed sensor), automatic triggering of both cameras at the same time (sync), Photoscan Pro to deliver orthomosaic/DEM pretty easy and fast, I can focus on the applications. I've selected vineyards and wine makers and surprisingly I could not find any straightforward way how I can sell my product. So let's find out if something interesting comes out of the discussion here. If you have your own experience in this area, please share it here.

I have access to a local wine grower here in Slovakia. I want to use this opportunity to do my own research and share the results and observations here. I intend to go out and map the vineyard (30ha) frequently according to the weather. The grower has several types of grapes and the main purpose would be to find out if NDVI or other VI can be used to monitor the plant stress and the reason why it occurs. I've included some figures from the book Remote Sensing of Vegetation 2010 that could be a good starting point. I realize this could be a long way to find out the simple facts that could help the growers and that the research is ongoing already elsewhere. First I have to find some source of funding to do this long-term research..

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now that I have a drone with RGB and NGB cameras onboard, Pixhawk working well (except airspeed sensor), automatic triggering of both cameras at the same time (sync), Photoscan Pro to deliver orthomosaic/DEM pretty easy and fast, I can focus on the applications. I've selected vineyards and wine makers and surprisingly I could not find any straightforward way how I can sell my product


Love it ! LOL.

one thing is technology, second is the application.. my experience with the wine grower is that they are pretty skeptical about this NDVI mapping.. however I have no data to proof they are wrong so I have to collect a lot of data and compare with their input.. if I find a correlation that might suggest something useful, the product starts to appear..  I think that most of the people in this group want to sell something like that one day.. precision agriculture is meant to be the main use of this technology so let's see if it's true or not.. do you have some experience with wine growers ?

Hi Michal,

     my comment is to find a plant pathology that shows up via NDVI and similar techniques and see if the pathology is apparent enough to actually make a quantitative difference at harvest in using NDVI as a monitoring technique,.

One very common example is water stress.. there are others both in insect pests and microbial/viruses threats still awaiting someone to experiment and see if NDVI works to isolate the signal from the noise(useful data from images). 

In your case you should be using your NDVI cam on sick plants where the pathology has been identified and examining reflected IR in several bands  it may take a bit more than a converted consumer cam if no one has done the research as to which band gives the clearest detection signal for that pathology if indeed NDVI in ANY band is applicable for early detection and interdiction.

Once you have a cheaper way to detect that pathology rather than the farmer simply taking a loss at harvest then you have something you can use in marketing and possibly have a market to engage with services and products.

        good luck


ps examining several markets besides precision ag, but ag IS a big one in florida,california and the midwest in the US. YMMV of course.

Great stuff, I'll be watching with interested .I am interested in doing something similar but mostly as an excuse to go flying and have some fun with the automation and cameras!  If I can work out some way to make a hobby into a paying business then great!

Its still very early days for me but this has been interesting reading:

Lots to learn and that's without the marketing side to consider.  Still I enjoy the challenge and it sounds that you do too.

Yes, I've read that article too. NDVI seems to be outrun by simple NIR-VIS index. However this has to be tested.. And there are other indexes too.. My fear is the size of the vineyard coverage.. From the above, one may see only top leaves, the side ones and the grapes are probably not visible to the camera.. So I'm not sure how much I can actually detect.. But again this is the early stage and we live in exciting times of experiment.. I would love to try some hyperspectral scanner for even better variety of indexes to be tested too.. But that is 100k stuff..

Water stress due to no irrigation is a fact already known in this local vineyard.. So that is not something a grower is interested to see/know. Maybe wine growers in different parts of the world with different weather characteristics are using irrigation, but in Slovakia with mild weather, I doubt anyone is.

The opportunity I have is to predict the location of disease that will outbreak in a matter of hours or the next day. That is something valuable according to my talk with them. Because if a disease appears, it's already too late. They are immediately applying cure spray against specific disease to the whole vineyard to prevent further spread. So my question is: Are the top leaves of vine showing some symptoms of upcoming disease on a NDVI or VI map ? Hard to tell right now.. But this could be a way how to save money on pesticides that are frequently used during the season..

Hi Michal, i m a drone enthusiast (i ve 2 iris and various mini drones) and my father owns prestigious vineyards in St Emilion France (Regularly noted around 90 by Robert Parker). I would be interested to understand your approach and your objectives. There is a real mature market in France for Precision Viticulture. There are also a lot of people already offering services in this area (We have in France a clear UAV legal context and more than 300 registred drone companies.)  

Hi Michal,

From a single NIR image I can already see the same differences that an NDVI is going to point out to be honest. The sensors in these consumer cameras capture a very wide band of the spectrum, which makes it harder to extract very specific information, you'd need multispectral sensors to be able to extract more information. NDVI is a bit like only having a hammer when you want to construct a house, quite a blunt tool.

Selling to individuals costs a lot of effort in convincing and test flying while not making money. Focus on a decent sized organization first and run experiments with them. There was a story about McCain looking into drone use for potato crop monitoring. That is an excellent way to immediately push ahead for other customers and get the exposure you need.

Not all viticulturists are concerned about their crop. Here 1/5 grows wine with noble grapes, the others are very regular wines really. The immediate concerns they have are "is there going to be rainfall this year?" and the other is "is anyone invading my vineyard and constructing houses?". Precision Ag only comes somewhere after that, so you shouldn't expect jaw-drops when you explain the technology to them, if you are in situations like that. Best is to take an open-minded approach to things, you may be able to sell services against invasion first and then supplement with other services. Always ask them "what's your biggest concern right now?" and that may give you pointers into new business.

Well, nice to hear about the interest.. If you have so many companies already offering such services, try to ask them what is the real added value for the vine growers that they offer. So far I could not find anything real, just general description of products/services. My list of companies with Viticulture experience :

This topic certainly needs a proper research. If someone says NDVI adds some value and they have the proof, then fine but show us the results. This is a thin line here.. A consumer grade camera converted to NIR camera is certainly not the best option here. The bands are broad and results unclear. I will have to study more literature now on this topic, especially the use of UAVs in viticulture. There has been some research done so let's see what has proven to be beneficial for the growers.

My concern is also the choice of the right sensor. There are indications that thermal or hyperspectral camera could do the job better. But those might cost too much. For testing this is not a good way because nobody will just borrow me such sensor without paying anything. And the producers of these sensors are too far from Slovakia anyway.. But let's see..

So all in all my objectives are simple: Find out what sensor can bring which added value that would be interesting enough for the wine growers to invest in such service.

Another problem that I cannot answer without testing: Is orthophoto enough or you need DEM ? Photoscan will deliver both but the question is how much of the actual plant is visible to my camera ? I presume not much, maybe just 50%.. Obviously this depends on many factors e.g. the width between the vine rows, vine height, weather conditions, shadow etc.. And I presume orthophoto will not be sufficient because you will see only the top layer. This needs testing too..

Michal, Just a precision, we have more than 300 drone companies and operators in France but not so much with experience in the precision agriculture field. There was meeting in April in Montpellier on precision viticulture (250 People were attending the event - the registrant list is publicly available it may be a good starting point for you.) I can introduce you to Henri Borreill the CEO of exametrics if you want. + You ll find enclosed a list of french drone operators

Well I don't expect that consumer grade NIR sensitive camera will be the ultimate solution here. It is just the starting point that is cheap and will point out something you can't see in visible light. I'm not a millionaire who can buy anything and this is probably the same situation with most of the users here. As I wrote before in this blog, hyperspectral camera is too expensive just for testing. I know it starts on a price tag about 60-75000 EUR and that is the cheapest sensor with who knows what quality if you cannot test it.

I don't know anything about thermal cameras and their price range, but certainly it's not something cheap and the resolution for the vine might be too low too. But I will investigate in this matter..

Serious multispectral cameras like Tetracam that are light and cheap enough might be an option, but again the bands are broad and the result might be similar to consumer grade camera that is even cheaper. So why to invest ?

I'm not selling to individuals with small vineyard. My first potential client has a 30 hectare field with several types of vine and he is profit oriented with lot's of technology already invested. They have own agronomist and I already had a meeting with them. It is the nearest vine grower who could be interested if I have something to show. So it's now a question if I want to invest a time to frequently fly over his vineyard and observe some pattern in NDVI / VI data with consumer grade camera or rather invest into different sensor/camera that would help me get out the information I can sell better. But my financies are very limited and I don't want to go to bank and borrow money just to find out that at he end I have no product to sell. It's a huge risk for me but that is the essence of business right :) First I want to study all literature about the topic, then see what could be the best option for this market.

I don't have big eyes. Maybe vine growers are not the market for me after all. But farmers with other crops might be in the same situation. It's the technology that should make the difference, after all why are we doing all this ?

I've as many others spent too much time and money to build a flyable drone with some cameras onboard. Now is the time to find out if there is a market to sell it somehow. I did not spent time on this just for fun.. If this industry is meant to be used in precision agriculture as the main source of income (according to many AUVSI talks or any market predictions I've seen in the last 5 years) then let's find out if that is true. Do you have some experience with this ?

Hi there.

I came across this post randomly.  I am a long-time contributor to the AeroQuad project, and have only occasionally snooped around on DIYD, but this post caused me to register and comment.

Im a US winemaker with a Viticulture & Enology Degree, as well as a Quad-Nerd.   I've thought a lot about viticultural applications for quads, and I have two suggestions for you, only one of which might play to the strengths of what you have developed.

Vineyards in the US are fighting a vine virus called "red blotch"  - which surprisingly enough, causes red blotches on the leaves.  We believe the virus is being vectored by some kind of insect, but are not sure.   Either way, there will be interest in ways of quantifying the degree and the spread of the incidence of red blotch in vineyards both throughout the season, as well as from season to season.

The other application that I see for autonomous craft in this industry is a lot more basic:  scaring away birds...

If you can have a quad that flies over vineyards several times a day making sounds like a hawk... then you will have a lot of takers...    If you can make it dock like a roomba, charge, and go out on it's own, then you will have even more...  Not that such an idea plays to the strengths of your craft.

The other applications for imagery such as mapping vine vigor, water stress, etc...  All of those things are something that you do a study on every so often so that you can change your watering zones and times... etc.   Something that someone would buy one of your vehicles and then provide a service to vineyards.  I dont see you selling a lot of vehicles for that purpose.

That is my two cents.  Feel free to contact me directly if you want to chat on some of these topics.

And remember: Corks suck.  Winemakers who care about quality use screwcaps!


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