Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are the newest refinement in mapping that allow farmers to know more about what is happening on their lands and why.
Mike Morellato is with West Coast Geospatial, a Vancouver-based company that provides high resolution orthorectified air photos, plots or maps the data and then analyzes the data for use by agriculturalists. He is a big booster of the UAV technology.
Anyone can go on Google and zoom in on their property for a low resolution aerial map, but UAVs not only give incredible detail, but they can map property using technology that can pinpoint problems.
Too much water or too little, insect infestations and other stresses are reflected in the plant canopy. Near Infrared Imagery or NIR cameras will show the differences in the canopy and colorize them. With experience and help from staff at a company like West Coast Geospatial, farmers will be able to quickly realize what is happening with their crop.
It’s not all about bad things happening to the crop either: the data and mapping can show biomass density, identification of plants, optimal fertilizer use and even detect chlorophyll levels.
The UAVs fly at 50 to 100 metres above the ground and with the high resolution cameras can easily pick up, says Morellato, “…any production inefficiencies in operations, such as crop overspray or even signs of leaky irrigation lines due to the extremely high resolution the UAV is capable of producing.”
He also says this technology is well advanced and in common use in may other agricultural zones, but has only been recently introduced to British Columbia.