Learn How to Get Started with Drones at the NCMC this January

Figure 1. Yeyin Shi, new Nebraska Extension agricultural systems information specialist in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering, uses a hybrid drone with rotary wings for vertical takeoff as well as featues of fixed wing drone that allows for a gliding flight style.
Figure 1. Yeyin Shi, new Nebraska Extension agricultural systems information specialist in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering, uses a drone with hybrid features including rotary wings for vertical takeoff and featues of a fixed wing drone that allows for a gliding flight style.

Learn How to Get Started with Drones at the NCMC this January December 13, 2017

Are you interested in using drones on your farm, but unsure as to what you need or how to get started? Or maybe you’re already using a drone and want to know how to increase its value to your operation?

“Getting Started with Drones in Agriculture” is one of 27 sessions being offered at the Nebraska Crop Management Conference Jan. 24-25 in Kearney. This session, offered at two times, will address

Drone flight over corn
Figure 2. University technicians test a drone's capabilities over a corn field in east central Nebraska.

Growers Sought for On-Farm Drone Research

Shi is currently looking for growers across the state interested in working with her to conduct research studies of on-farm drone application.

“We want to work in real production fields, encountering the questions and challenges growers encounter every day so we can target our research and educational programs to meet their needs,” Shi said.

“We can help them get their system up and going, improve their data collection, and help them interpret the data gathered,” Shi said.

For more information on this opportunity email Shi at yshi18@unl.edu.

  • advantages and drawbacks of using drones as compared to other sensor platforms (satellites, airplanes, canopy sensors);
  • how to select among the various types of drones, sensors and cameras to achieve your goal; and
  • a typical workflow for a drone mapping project and what kind of information you can expect from each flight.

The session also will look at Nebraska case studies where drones have been used for taking stand counts, mapping weed pressure and dicamba damage, surveying disease pressure, and assessing in-season nitrogen application, plant lodging, or variable rate seeding.  

Presenting this session will be Yeyin Shi, new extension agricultural systems information specialist in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering. Co-authoring the proceedings article for the presentation are Laura Thompson, extension educator working in precision agriculture and on-farm research, and Richard Ferguson, extension soils specialist.

Shi’s focus is on helping farmers transform the hundreds of thousands of data bits generated by today’s precision ag technologies into useful information to guide decision-making for their operation.

“These technologies are going to become easier and easier to use and as common as auto steering and yield monitors for many growers. Eventually, drone cameras will provide both high spatial and temporal resolution,” Shi said.

Understanding what information is provided by the various sensor types can help growers select the right sensor or camera for the job.

“You don’t want to pay for what you don’t need,” Shi noted.

One of the complexities with using photo data from drones is also its unique advantage over other platforms. One flight over a typical field can generate tens of thousands of individual, highly detailed images loaded with information. These images need to be “sewn” together to provide a single image that can more easily be analyzed. While color images, much like you'd take with your camera, offer more immediate information, the more advanced georeferenced, multispectral images can be layered with other maps such as soil type and geography, or compared with maps throughout the season to provide a deeper, richer knowledge of what’s going on in the field.

The three authors have also written a new Nebraska Extension publication, expected for release in January.