UAVs used to monitor crop health in WA

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A WA university student’s experiment has shown how drones can be used to track and improve crop health. A WA university student’s experiment has shown how drones can be used to track and improve crop health. A WA university student’s experiment has shown how drones can be used to track and improve crop health.

A new method of using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to monitor crop health has been developed by a Curtin University honours student in Western Australia.


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John Long used a drone to measure the growth rates of crops that had been treated with different kinds of herbicides, as the basis of his study.

"This data creates results for farmers or agronomists to quickly assess the health of the crops and develop certain strategies for attaining ultimate crop performance," Long says.

Long monitored 54 trial wheat plots to obtain crop height imagery, data which was then used to compare growth over time. The plots were seeded with six different wheat varieties and treated with varying herbicides.

He is confident that this type of UAV usage could help growers to better identify the best treatments to apply to their crops to maximise yields.

The project was driven by Long’s belief that UAV technology could be used to assist wheat farmers, and earned him a Hexagon Geospatial-sponsored award in the field of remote sensing.

"As WA is Australia’s largest grain producing region as well as one of the biggest pest and disease-free agriculture production areas in the world, so it’s crucial for the state to maintain clean and ultimate cropping yields," Long says.

"To maintain this, improved crop monitoring systems are required to achieve the best potential yields, while having a minimal impact on the environment with non-destructive forms of measurement."

Curtin WA School of Mines head of department of spatial sciences professor Bert Veenendaal says the research demonstrates the importance of emerging UAV technology to the agricultural industry.

The research was conducted at a Centre for Crop and Disease Management trial site at the Muresk Institute in WA’s Wheatbelt.


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