Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Estimating crop water needs using unmanned aerial vehicles

Science Daily: Andalusian scientists of the Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (IAS) – part of the Spanish Council for Scientific Research (CSIC)- and the University of Córdoba (UCO) are leading a campaign of measures in the USA to estimate crop water needs using their own system of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) equipped with thermal multispectral cameras.

In collaboration with the University of California (and thanks to an invitation from the Vice-President of such university for a project led by Dr. David Goldhamer) will be conducting flights over experimental plots with different crops, some of them being the largest pistachio nut crop in the world, as well as over almond tree and vineyard crops spread across the State of California. This system allows you to know the ideal time to water the crops, saving water, and it can even be used to detect situations of water waste or water leaks in the irrigation system. The method has been used in more than 600 flights made between 2007 and 2009 in wheat, corn, peach, olive, orange and vineyards fields in Spain.

…The system is based in small unmanned planes which can fly between 50 minutes and 2 hours and explore up to 1,000 hectares at an altitude of 300 m. above the ground. ‘The planes are equipped with a GPS system that continuously informs of its location to a base station from which the platform is operated and its mapping is observed' Dr. Zarco-Tejada explains, a researcher of the CSIC leading the project of Cordoba Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (IAS)….

Aerial view of a farm near Teufen, Switzerland, shot by Hansueli Krapf, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License

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