March 2019 - 5

DRONES
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1
MacRae said. " But diseases, theoretically,
interrupt the plant's thermal regulation
more than insects. So we can use the
thermal to sort out whether we're dealing
with an insect or a disease.
" These thermal sensors are so small, we
can actually mount them on a drone at the
same time as the other sensors. "
Dependability
The cost of the drones themselves
is coming down, along with sensory
equipment and cameras, but it's still a fine
line on balancing investment with risk. As
MacRae said, if you fly a drone, that drone
will crash at some point.
" There is a lot of variety out there. You
can go for a large one. We fly those, but
we also start to segue over to smaller, less
expensive vehicles, " MacRae said. " The
rationale for
that is when one
of these things
crashes - you
IAN MACRAE
notice I didn't say
'if' - but when it
crashes, you're out
a lot less money.
The DJI S1000,
they're about
$4,000. The 3DR
Solos are about $300. They function the
same way, and they're about as reliable.
The difference is the S1000 is a much
heavier payload, so we use it for much
larger sensors. "
GIS in software development
Sensors and cameras have the capability
to accumulate vast amounts of data and
hundreds of images from a single drone
trip to the field. Without proper software
to organize and decipher the data, it's
relatively useless to growers. Advancement
in that area is ongoing, MacRae said.
" We worked on ways to measure
defoliation using aerial imagery. ... We
realized this isn't the way this is going to
adopted first, " MacRae said. " We needed
to find software that was going to be
much more amenable to the growers. We
started looking at geographic information
software (GIS). This is something that is
becoming very commonly available. It's
responsible in auto-steering in tractors. We
actually trained the GIS to say 'this is plant
material' and 'this is not.' At that point, a
GIS is designed to tell you what kind of
coverage you have in a certain area. "
On the horizon
MacRae works more with potatoes than
any other crop. His team is looking at ways
they can use sensors to detect PVY and
late blight, among other diseases, using
remote sensing on drones and added that
nutrient measurement is also in the works.
Irrigation and pesticide and herbicide
application might be the biggest areas of
focus in the coming years, however.
" One of the things that's probably
really important in the next couple of
years is spray drift, especially with the
impact that it can have on potatoes and
the carryover of herbicide, " MacRae said.
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VGN | MARCH 2019 | 5
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Another tool
Stakeholders are watching drone
development with a keen eye, but that
isn't translating to investment right now,
MacRae noted. The return on investment
just isn't there yet.
" There is still a lot of technology that needs
to be improved, " he said. " When I talk to
stakeholders, they're interested in the data,
but they're not interested in being the one to
acquire the data. Consequently, I think we'll
see adoption coming from service models.
" That's the thing to keep in mind -
drones are going to change the amount of
information you have and help you make
decisions, but they're not going to replace
anything, " MacRae added. " It's just going
to be another data source. " VGN
David Young, a flight coordinator with the Geosystems Research Institute at Mississippi State
University, prepares an unmanned aircraft to fly over test plots at the H. H. Leveck Animal
Research Center. Photo: Kevin Hudson/Mississippi State University Extension
TRADITION

March 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of March 2019

March 2019 - 1
March 2019 - 2
March 2019 - 3
March 2019 - 4
March 2019 - 5
March 2019 - 6
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