One reason I constantly check DIYdrones throughout the day is the tenancy to have well-written and informative blog posts on the front page, as opposed to some of the "hype machine news" found elsewhere, though we get our share as well.
This blog post is really intended to be "just a blog post". I have multiple half-finished and in progress blog posts started (all relating to this topic), and I always want to add a little more substance and evidence first, in an effort to contribute to the quality of discussions I admire here. In this case, I feel that it's important to urge a little movement in a specific direction and offer up some signature rambling.
I did not get into UAS/drones for agricultural purposes, but stumbling across the topic is inevitable. In the past year or so, most of my focus has been on the agricultural side of commercial UAS use. I have zero relevant background in this regard, which is exactly what qualifies me to write THIS specific blog post. While information on requirements and uses for multispectral cameras (ranging from low end to scientifically calibrated) is readily available in peer reviewed articles with case studies and examples, this information is often difficult to comprehend without dedicating a significant amount of time to learning it.
Holding true to our philosophy at the fire department, I've been attempting a "The best way to learn is to teach" approach by making my contribution to this community a guide on NDVI, based on referenced and verifiable studies that typically don't show up in a google search. The conversations I've been having are frightening.
The summary is "The NDVI capabilities of drones that is being marketed is, at best, a gross overestimation".
I really want that quote to sink in for a moment, because I have a different viewpoint on the implications. The bad side is that reputations like this have the potential to cause some involuntary career changes. The good side is that the problem can be solved by shedding some of our own ignorance, as the cause is really our lack of understanding. Thankfully, the above quote was followed up by a conversation about how some of the converted camera's many of us are using DO have a use, but it is critical to understand and implement some workflow steps, and there also needs to be an understanding of the biodiversity of the area of operations and how it pertains to the information you're trying to extract. That information needs to be understood to determine if your sensor's capabilities are able to extract it.
With limited understanding, many of these conversations with people experienced in remote sensing and agriculture (but without a stake in the UAS industry) scared the hell out of me. I've had ongoing interactions with people from almost every data processing company I can think of, as well as a few manufacturers. I'm really rooting for everyone to succeed and didn't want to start citing data that is detrimental to many efforts, especially with limited understanding myself and far less on-the-line than others. I still maintain that viewpoint, and this is the basis of my reasoning for writing this blog. The wide-spread belief of "Farmers can save $____ with drone-collected NDVI" is possible, and it is possible with a variety of camera options...but it's not possible without a widespread understanding and accountability for the steps that need to be taken for this data to be useful. Every drone-related agricultural service is going to contribute to the reputation of capabilities of others, because right now it is all seen as the same cup o' tea.
My initial plan for compiling this data for the average Joe attempting to get into a drones-as-a-service role has expanded to include much more information than I initially intended. I foresee this being a long process of learning myself and having the drafts reviewed by the people that have offered up their assistance, but I'd like to see some progress from others, big and small, to increase their understanding of the service being offered. You can justify the effort on the grounds of ethics, capitalism or self-preservation, but it's an essential step either way.