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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 #335165

Research Project: Aerial Application Technology for Sustainable Crop Production

Location: Aerial Application Technology Research

Title: Unmanned aerial vehicles for high-throughput phenotyping and agronomic research

Author
item SHI, YEYIN - Texas A&M University
item THOMASSON, ALEX - Texas A&M University
item MURRAY, SETH - Texas A&M University
item PUGH, N. - Texas A&M University
item ROONEY, WILLIAM - Texas A&M University
item SHAFIAN, SANAZ - Texas A&M University
item RAJAN, NITHYA - Texas A&M University
item ROUZE, GREGORY - Texas A&M University
item MORGAN, CRISTINE - Texas A&M University
item NEELY, HALY - Texas A&M University
item RANA, AMAN - Texas A&M University
item BAGAVATHIANNAN, MUTHU - Texas A&M University
item HENRICKSON, JAMES - Texas A&M University
item BOWDEN, EZEKIEL - Texas A&M University
item VALASEK, JOHN - Texas A&M University
item OLSENHOLLER, JEFF - Texas A&M University
item BISHOP, MICHAEL - Texas A&M University
item SHERIDAN, RYAN - Texas A&M University
item PUTMAN, ERIC - Texas A&M University
item POPESCU, SORIN - Texas A&M University
item BURKS, TRAVIS - Texas A&M University
item COPE, DALE - Texas A&M University
item IBRAHIM, AMIR - Texas A&M University
item MCCUTCHEN, BILLY - Texas A&M University
item BALTENSPERGER, DAVID - Texas A&M University
item AVANT, ROBERT, JR. - Texas A&M University
item VIDRINE, MISTY - Texas A&M University
item Yang, Chenghai

Submitted to: PLoS ONE
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/20/2016
Publication Date: 12/28/2016
Citation: Shi, Y., Thomasson, A., Murray, S., Pugh, N.A., Rooney, W.L., Shafian, S., Rajan, N., Rouze, G., Morgan, C.L., Neely, H.L., Rana, A., Bagavathiannan, M.V., Henrickson, J., Bowden, E., Valasek, J., Olsenholler, J., Bishop, M.P., Sheridan, R., Putman, E.B., Popescu, S., Burks, T., Cope, D., Ibrahim, A., McCutchen, B.F., Baltensperger, D.D., Avant, R.V., Vidrine, M., Yang, C. 2016. Unmanned aerial vehicles for high-throughput phenotyping and agronomic research. PLoS One. 11(7):e0159781.

Interpretive Summary: Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have recently gained attraction as a remote sensing platform. Using UAVs for agricultural remote sensing is an innovative technology that differs from traditional remote sensing in more ways than strictly higher-resolution images. As a large multidisciplinary project, this study was designed to collect high-quality, high-volume crop data with fast turnaround time and to evaluate UAV images across a range of breeding and agronomic research trials on a large research farm. This study involved team and project planning, UAV and sensor selection and integration, and data collection and analysis for many crops in breeding plots and agronomic fields. The project included five teams: administration, flight operations, sensors, data management, and field research. Four case studies involving multiple crops in breeding and agronomic applications add practical descriptive detail. Lessons learned include critical information on sensors, air vehicles, and configuration parameters for both. As the first and most comprehensive project of its kind to date, these experiences and lessons are particularly important and useful to researchers embarking on agricultural research with UAVs.

Technical Abstract: Advances in automation and data science have led agriculturists to seek real-time, high-quality, high-volume crop data to accelerate crop improvement through breeding and to optimize agronomic practices. Breeders have recently gained massive data-collection capability in genome sequencing of plants. Faster phenotypic trait data collection and analysis relative to genetic data leads to faster and better selections in crop improvement. Furthermore, faster and higher-resolution crop data collection leads to greater capability for scientists and growers to improve precision agriculture practices on increasingly larger farms; e.g., site-specific application of water and nutrients. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have recently gained traction as agricultural data collection systems. Using UAVs for agricultural remote sensing is an innovative technology that differs from traditional remote sensing in more ways than strictly higher-resolution images; it provides many new and unique possibilities, as well as new and unique challenges. Herein we report on processes and lessons learned from year 1—the summer 2015 and winter 2016 growing seasons–of a large multidisciplinary project evaluating UAV images across a range of breeding and agronomic research trials on a large research farm. Included are team and project planning, UAV and sensor selection and integration, and data collection and analysis workflow. The study involved many crops and both breeding plots and agronomic fields. The project’s goal was to develop methods for UAVs to collect high-quality, high-volume crop data with fast turnaround time to field scientists. The project included five teams: Administration, Flight Operations, Sensors, Data Management, and Field Research. Four case studies involving multiple crops in breeding and agronomic applications add practical descriptive detail. Lessons learned include critical information on sensors, air vehicles, and configuration parameters for both. As the first and most comprehensive project of its kind to date, these lessons are particularly salient to researchers embarking on agricultural research with UAVs.