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ARS Home » Plains Area » College Station, Texas » Southern Plains Agricultural Research Center » Aerial Application Technology Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #314134

Research Project: Aerial Application Technology for Sustainable Crop Production

Location: Aerial Application Technology Research

Title: A Low-Cost Imaging System for Aerial Applicators

Author
item Yang, Chenghai
item Hoffmann, Wesley

Submitted to: Agricultural Aviation
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/15/2014
Publication Date: 12/1/2014
Citation: Yang, C., Hoffmann, W.C. 2014. A Low-Cost Imaging System for Aerial Applicators. Agricultural Aviation. 41(6):45-51.

Interpretive Summary: Agricultural aircraft provide a readily available and versatile platform for airborne remote sensing. Although various airborne imaging systems are being used for research and commercial applications, most of these systems are either too expensive or too complex to be of practical use for aerial applicators. USDA-ARS scientists with the Aerial Application Technology Research Unit have assembled a low-cost, user-friendly imaging system that can be easily installed on any aircraft. Geotagged images from the system can be viewed on any image viewer and on Google Earth so that images for particular fields or areas can be quickly selected. Continuous images taken from a large geographical area can be stitched together into one or several mosaicked images using inexpensive software. This imaging system will provide a useful tool for aerial applicators to quickly assess crop conditions and detect crop pests for effective aerial application.

Technical Abstract: Agricultural aircraft provide a readily available and versatile platform for airborne remote sensing. Although various airborne imaging systems are being used for research and commercial applications, most of these systems are either too expensive or too complex to be of practical use for aerial applicators. The objective of this study was to develop a low-cost, user-friendly airborne imaging system that can be easily installed on an aerial applicator for pest detection and application assessment. A prototype imaging system was assembled using off-the-shelf electronics. The system consisted of a Nikon digital camera to capture color images with 4288 x 2848 pixels, a GPS receiver to geotag the image, a video monitor to view the live image, and a remote control device to trigger the camera. A camera mount was built to attach the camera onto an Air Tractor AT-400B. Images from the camera are stored in both 12-bit RAW and 8-bit JPEG files in a SD memory card and can be easily viewed and enhanced with any image viewer. The geotagged images can also be viewed on Google Earth so that images for particular fields or areas can be quickly selected. Continuous images taken from a large geographical area can be stitched together into one or several mosaicked images using free or inexpensive software. The parameters of the camera are optimized to acquire images at various altitudes from 152 to 3048 m (500 to 10000 ft) and to achieve ground pixel sizes of 3.5 to 70 cm (1.4 in to 2.3 ft). This imaging system will provide a useful tool for aerial applicators to quickly assess crop conditions and detect crop pests for effective aerial application.