Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or drones have become very popular and I’ve had great privilege to research the potential of these tools in broadacre farming. See my Nuffield report here.
I’d like to share how imagery from drones complements that from Satamap.
Below is a Satamap image showing biomass variability in chickpeas caused by water logging. Following is an image captured from a Canon camera (S110) in an SenseFly eBee in the same paddock on roughly the same date. See the red square for location of image.
The Satamap imagery is displayed at a resolution of 15 m where as the drone imagery is around 4 cm – a massive difference. The Satamap image accurately exposes all areas of water logging as lower biomass.
In addition, the drone imagery can see individual plants and tramlines. Of particular interest the rows that were planted closer together have survived the water logging event better then all others. Note the blue arrows. This is detail that is not detected from the Satamap imagery.
Now lets look at cost – to map the entire 220ha paddock with the drone may have cost $990 (at $4.50/ha) which is the total of a one year subscription to Satamap for a whole 3+ million hectare tile updated every 16 days. Of course there is value in both datasets but of a different kind. Applications of drone data such as identifying weeds in crop, counting plant stand, 3D modelling of crops are all exciting applications reserved for drones.
In summary, the data collected from these two different platforms has totally different scope and work in parallel rather than competing.