The 2017 Peppin-Shaw Ewe Flock Forum will be soaring to new heights with a drone display and demonstration by Ben Watts from Bralca. Drones are gaining momentum in Agriculture as a way to save time and money on physically demanding jobs, while providing an unparalleled perspective of the paddock. Drones can be your personal eye in the sky for mustering stock to assisting in grazing management decisions or checking on lambing ewes with minimal disturbance. The drone demonstration will be held at Wyvern on Day One with Ben to discuss commercial application of drones in Ag. Day Two will host a drone display at Benilkie where two local farmers will have their drones available to discuss their applications and experiences of the aerial technology to their enterprises.
Drone Demonstration Information
New generation Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (commonly referred to as drones) are creating solutions in agriculture to age old challenges. The growing of crops and livestock has always required a trained eye in the field paired with a solid understanding of soils and climate to be ready to act on any unplanned issues causing stress such as disease or nutrient deficiencies. Whilst early developments of fixed cameras were a step forward in mapping single plants, commercial agriculture continued to operate on vast areas with the responsibility of millions of dollars in resources across:
· Water infrastructure
· Crops· Livestock
· Environmental areas
All of these resources can be monitored using drones fitted with purpose built sensors. A standard camera to collect either flight video or high quality still photos of points of interest is the starting point of monitoring. Capturing imagery at key times of crop emergence, tillering and flowering can assist a farmer to more accurately monitor crop density, health and to predict the variability in yield from any set of plantings. Mounting a camera fitted with filters to collect near infrared imagery provides detailed information that can be represented through a NDVI map. This index provides a live snapshot of which plants are actively photosynthesizing. Whilst NDVI maps are available from satellites, these are often on a weekly or fortnightly basis and can be affected by cloud. Also satellite maps are generally on 50m – 250m pixel size. Drone mounted systems can generate NDVI maps on any given day (outside of raining days) at an accuracy of 1- 5cm pixels. This provides up to date information on individual plants across a field that would not be visible for another 10-20 days if we were to wait on traditional visual assessment. Early identification of plant stress allows for timely identification and treatments to prevent spread of disease or early treatment of deficient nutrients before significant yield losses are caused. By using high definition maps throughout the growing period rather than looking at a yield map post-harvest, we can take a proactive approach to matching inputs where required with the aim of maintaining input costs whilst increasing yields – The result being reduced cost of production. Whilst this technology has been developed around the cropping industry, recent research has applied this to NRM &pastures within grazing systems and this has provided further benefits to the traditional industry of livestock grazing. Monitoring livestock in their grazing environment often requires accessing rugged, hard to access areas. Drones provide a new solution to firstly quickly covering these areas without the costs or risks involved in ground based monitoring, secondly aerial monitoring provides imagery of livestock in their natural state where we can observe their grazing, social and movement behaviour to better understand and manage animal production.
The drone demonstration by Ben Watts is proudly sponsored by Murrumbidgee Landcare through the Murrumbidgee Landcare Community Pop-Up Grants.