As we move into the planting season, it is important to remember some of the key factors that limit yield. It is widely accepted that population is at the top of the list. It would stand to reason that without plants, there is not much you can do to preserve or create yield. Assessing population has been a challenging task considering the time constraints of spring. We can now use drones, models like the Phantom 4 or newer, to quickly and accurately assess the population of a field.
The process works by flying a drone at an altitude of 50 ft. and taking detailed photos of the crop. These photos are then loaded into a computer either in the field or at your office. The computer then analyzes the photo, counts the plants, and creates a report. This data can then be incorporated into your FARMServer® account to help with the decision-making process.
By partnering with Sentera, a Minnesota-based company, we can now plan a mission and autonomously fly the drone to gather this data. Since the data is a low altitude spot sampling process, there is no image stitching required. All the calculations are done locally with no need for the transmission to and from the web. This dramatically speeds up the process, as rural internet speeds are often the slow part of the data management process. In one hour, you can fly, upload, calculate, and create a report for 100 acres. This process gives you 100 data points. That amount of data in the past has been unheard of and certainly not practical. The corn only needs to be about 2 in. tall to get an accurate count.
This early counting capability means that this system can help make replant determinations. FARMserver continues to bring technologies together, taking both current and historical data to help farmers make the most educated management decisions. Beck’s drone fleet consistently evolves to test the latest and most advanced equipment available.
Once the crop is established, our attention turns to weeds. Drone application is the next step in the evolution of drones on the farm. In partnership with Hylio, a Houston-based company, we are working to better learn how we can use the spray drone as an addition to a precision farming system. Carrying 4 gal. of liquid and applying 1 gal. of material per acre, the drone can cover four acres in eight minutes. This will be a game-changer when a ground rig cannot run because of soil conditions. Although we had a late start last season, we still had an opportunity to look at this technology on herbicide and a fungicide. The Hylio Agrodrone did a good job with the application and operational reliability. Go to bit.ly/hylioagrodrone to see a Hylio demonstration at Beck’s Field Shows.
Although we had the opportunity to work with U.S.-based companies for software, this is the first time we have introduced a U.S.-based company for hardware. Beck’s is committed to testing and rapidly deploying the latest technologies to our customers. For more information about using drones on your farm this spring, reach out to your local Beck’s representative.
Don’t forget, FARMserver is available to all Beck’s corn and soybeans customers at no additional cost. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us at 317-565-4120 or support@FARMserver.com.
By Jim Love, UAV & Light Robotics Mgr/Herbicide Specialist
Photo Caption: FARMserver®, together with Sentera, allows early season stand counts using drone technology.