Drones fly in to change the way we work in research fields
Data collection in agriculture research fields is all set to become cheaper, rapid and more precise with the foray of drones. Worldwide, agri-researchers are increasingly opting for modern tools to speed up efforts to feed a growing planet and meet the Global Goal of ‘No hunger’ by 2030.
The future of drones in agriculture is a subject undergoing intense study. In line with it a working group formed by the CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture gathered in Zanzibar, Tanzania, for a brainstorming session cum hands-on workshop on how to use drones for breeding and other crop data collection applications.
The working group discussed use cases to help real-time monitoring of crop health and farming operations, spraying or dusting pesticide, fertilizer application, crop monitoring, recording of morphological traits such as plant height and flowering, etc. Ideas discussed included crop surveys ranging from weekly/daily to hourly based on research needs and how the information can be used to prepare a time-series animation i.e. imagery that can show changes in the crop, revealing trouble spots or opportunities for better crop management.
The hands-on exercises were on two different kinds of drones, namely fixed wings (senseFly – eBee) and quadcopter (DJI- Phantom). eBee has the ability to cover a long flight path and give an overall view of the field in a very short time, whereas DJI-Phantom can fly low and give greater crop details.
The CGIAR Big Data Platform and Excellence in Breeding Platforms are continuously working to bring direct application and use case of drones to agricultural research fields and ICRISAT is actively engaged and coordinating with these platforms. At the meet, Dr Abhishek Rathore, Theme Leader – Statistics, Bio-Informatics & Data Management, ICRISAT, emphasized the need for a smart data ecosystem for drones, which can store, clean, analyze and feed data to the breeding data management system through application program interfaces. Most institutions agreed and are also planning to bring such systems and platforms into routine use.
The event held in September was assisted by WeRobotics and Tanzania Flying Lab. Several experts and participants from various CGIAR institutes, agriculture research institutes and universities attended.