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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Hydrology and Remote Sensing Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #346120

Research Project: Improving Agroecosystem Services by Measuring, Modeling, and Assessing Conservation Practices

Location: Hydrology and Remote Sensing Laboratory

Title: What good are unmanned aircraft systems for agricultural remote sensing and precision agriculture?

Author
item Hunt, Earle - Ray
item Daughtry, Craig

Submitted to: International Journal of Remote Sensing
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/15/2017
Publication Date: 12/3/2017
Citation: Hunt Jr, E.R., Daughtry, C.S. 2017. What good are unmanned aircraft systems for agricultural remote sensing and precision agriculture? International Journal of Remote Sensing. https://doi.org/10.1080/01431161.2017.1410300.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/01431161.2017.1410300

Interpretive Summary: Remote sensing from unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) is an important technology that can assist farmers to manage their crops and soils for economic and environmental sustainability. For agriculture, UAS applications can be grouped into three modes: (1) scouting for problems, (2) monitoring to prevent yield losses, and (3) managing in-season crop prescriptions. The three different modes have different requirements for sensor calibration and accuracy, different costs of operation, and different profit potentials. The UAS requirements for precision management of crops are challenging. A major component of precision crop management is variable rate application equipment that can apply fertilizers and other chemicals according to a prescription map. However, only about 20% of farmers have adopted this key technology. Our objectives are to review applications for UAS remote sensing in precision agriculture and highlight important recent advances in UAS remote sensing that may lead to better applications in the future. New technologies are available for UAS to monitor crops for weeds, pests and diseases, but different methods of data acquisition are necessary to further reduce cost of acquisition to make monitoring profitable.

Technical Abstract: Civilian applications of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS, also called drones) are rapidly expanding into crop production. UAS acquire high spatial resolution remote sensing imagery that can be used three different ways in agriculture. One is to assist crop scouts looking for problems in crop fields. Another is to monitor crops for pests, weeds and diseases. The third is to develop maps of crop nutrient requirements so that farmers can apply the right nutrient, at the right amount, at the right place, and at the right time (the 4 R’s of precision agriculture). Each of the three ways has different requirements for sensor calibration, spatial accuracy, and delivery of information to the farmer. Currently, few farmers have the right farm machinery to effectively use these maps of crop nutrient requirements and manage their crops and soils for economic and environmental sustainability.