3D Robotics

Agricultural drones for weed control


From Robots.net:

Precision Agriculture is a hot topic these days as researchers look for ways to reduce the massive amounts of chemicals that are currently sprayed on food crops. A new research paper describes one of the ways robots may help in Early Season Site-Specific Weed Management (ESSWM). In the study, a UAV equipped with a multispectral camera collected images of sunflower field infested with naturally occurring weeds. Similar imaging techniques using traditional satellite and aerial methods to adjust herbicide distribution have yielded up to 50% reduction in the total amounts of herbicides used. The researchers hope to replicate this process using the less expensive flying robot. From the paper:

Weeds are distributed in patches within crops and this spatial structure allows mapping infested-uninfested areas and herbicide treatments can be developed according to weed presence. The main objectives of this research were to deploy an UAV equipped with either, RBG or multispectral cameras, and to analyze the technical specifications and configuration of the UAV to generate images at different altitudes with the high spectral resolution required for the detection and location of weed seedlings in a sunflower field for further applications of ESSWM. Due to its flexibility and low flight altitude, the UAV showed ability to take ultra-high spatial resolution imagery and to operate on demand according to the flight mission planned.

In the experiment, an MD4-1000 VTOL quadcopter from Microdrones GmbH was used (pictured above). The UAV was equipped with GPS, waypoint navigation software, telemetry logging, and two cameras: an Olympus PEN E-PM1 point-and-shoot digital camera and a Tetracam Mini-MCA-6 six-band multispectral camera. The immediate research goal in this project was to figure out what sensors and image processing techniques would work, so further improvements are quite likely. Now all they need to do is find a catchy name for this technology: weedbots? agridrones? herbidroids? For all the details, read the paper "Configuration and Specifications of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) for Early Site Specific Weed Management" by Jorge Torres-Sánchez, Francisca López-Granados, Ana Isabel De Castro, and José Manuel Peña-Barragán. Read on for some photos showing sample imaging data from the UAV and waypoint navigation paths over the test crop.

Ortho-mosaic of the experimental field. Assembled from individual images taken by UAV from altitude of 100 meters

Screen shot of UAV downlink during programmed flight.

UAV waypoint navigation path over experimental field.

Sample images from UAV: a) RGB camera at 30 meters b) RGB camera at 100 meters c) multispectral camera at 30 meters d) multispectral camera at 100 meters.

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  • Joshua,  now I saw it, thks

  • Admin

    For 4000 acres , using a real plane and not a RC airframe would make sense :)

  • Very interesting.   With the high pattern nature of farming, it is just a matter of time until things like weed detection will come about.

    @ALK I think that multicopter is good for precision stuff like this.  if you throw the cameras on an airfoil the craft is moving at such a speed you loose precision from the cameras, especially the slow Tetracams which are pretty old sensor technology.

    So depending on your precision need I think the vertical take off and landing is pretty nice.. and if you use cheaper spectral camera then you could put together two or three quads and program them for different areas of the crop... but yeah I think if you are taking 4000 acres or more you need a plane.

  • Alfred,
    I think the reference panel is the shiny object in the last four images. I was talking about the big glowing tower in the first photo. Spain has several of these solar concentrator projects.
  • Cool! Maybe someday an Agridrone could itself eradicate the located weed seedlings (and insect pests) without chemicals, say by frying them via a tiny laser cannon ... (yes, yes, I know that's completely nuts ... just like that phone in your pocket...).

  • From the paper:  The flashy object is a "1×1 m frame used in the ground-truth field sampling and also is a reference panel for image spectral calibration"

  • Developer

    Liked the "Agridrone" name. Anyway I already flight UAV here, one x8 utilizing arduplane and now a new custom flying wing with Kerstrel, in tests.

    Do you think these quads have some advantage over planes for smaller areas? Or other advantage? Its sure easier to manage than a plane but the flight time limits the area it can cover.


  • Admin

    Is that what it is, I was wondering about the bright flashy object !!  Thought it was some thing related to the drone operator rig( antenna or some thing shiny)

  • Check out that solar concentrator in the background.

  • Thanks for sharing this Chris! These "AgriDrone" type aircraft are going to be essential in the civilian drone movement.   I personally think agriculture is going to be the biggest civilian market for robotics over the next 10 years.  It will make food cheaper priced,  cheaper to produce,  cheaper to maintain, and cheaper to harvest!  I'm so excited for the day I can drive by local farms and see robots doing tasks like watering,  pesticide spraying, crop photography, harvesting, planting, etc.

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