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How to use drones to map out your fields prior to planting and harvesting.

Farmers typically need several different types of maps of their fields prior to planting and harvesting. These include

Topographical maps: These maps show the elevation and contour of the land, allowing farmers to understand the slope and shape of the field. This information can help them determine the best areas for planting and harvesting based on factors such as soil type, slope, and proximity to water sources.

Soil maps: These maps show the soil type and fertility of different areas within a field. This information is important for determining which crops will grow best in a particular area and how much fertilizer or irrigation is required.

Crop maps: These maps show the location of different crops within a field and can be used to track growth and production over time. This information can help farmers make decisions about crop rotation and pest management.

Irrigation maps: These maps show the location and layout of irrigation systems within a field. This information can help farmers optimize irrigation practices, reducing water waste and increasing crop yields.

Field boundary maps: These maps show the boundaries of a field, including the location of fence lines, gates, and other structures. This information is important for planning field operations and for legal purposes.

These maps provide valuable information about the soil type, fertility, crop growth, and irrigation practices, allowing farmers to optimize their operations and increase yields. Once you have created a map of the field, you can use it to determine the best locations for planting and harvesting based on factors such as soil type, slope, and proximity to water sources. Additionally, you can use the map to keep track of where different crops are planted, and when they are ready for harvest.

Accuracy of Drone Maps

Farmers may be concerned with the level of accuracy that can be created with maps from drones. Truthfully, the level of accuracy generated can be on par with many traditional methods. It can also be effected by many factors including:

Drone quality: The accuracy of the survey is dependent on the quality of the drone being used. Higher-end drones with advanced sensors and GPS systems tend to produce more accurate maps.

Flying conditions: The weather conditions during the flight can affect the accuracy of the survey. Clouds, wind, and rain can all impact the quality of the images captured by the drone, leading to reduced accuracy.

Image processing software: The accuracy of the map is also dependent on the image processing software being used. High-quality software with advanced algorithms can produce more accurate maps.

Ground control points: The use of ground control points can significantly improve the accuracy of the survey. Ground control points are physical markers placed on the ground, which are used to anchor the map and ensure that it is accurate.

RTK/PPK: Real time kinematics and post processing kinematics are two technologies that improve the accuracy and easy of processing for mapping. Many farmers are familiar with RTK technology from precision guided tractors.

How to create maps with drones

Creating basic maps with drones is a relatively simple process. The difficulty arises from planning and processing the imagery to be accurate and useful. But the basic steps to create a map are as follows:

Plan Mission: Planning the mission is extremely important. Pilots need to note any airspace restrictions, unsafe weather conditions, or nearby airports. It is important to have a plan to keep everyone safe. Pilots using autopilot software can create their routes and mission parameters prior to launch during planning.

Establish Ground Control Station: It is important to create a controlled zone for takeoff and landing. This is also the time to set up any gps solutions like RTK or PPK base stations.

Establish Ground Control Points: Accurate maps generally use ground control points. It is a good idea to have 5 or more targets that can be easily identified and marked. You should use a high precision GPS to note the locations of these points.

Conduct pre-flight checks: Before every flight the pilot should conduct a thorough pre-flight check. We use an app called aloft that has a great pre-flight checklist built in.

Review Automatic flight modes and settings: A part of thorough pre-flight checks is reviewing automatic flight modes and settings including:

  • MOCA- minimum obstacle clearance altitude (set this above the tallest obstacle)

  • RTH - return to home location

  • RTH altitude- how high the drone flies to before returning to home

  • LOL setting - what it does if it loses radio link

  • Overlap - how much each adjacent image overlaps the last one

  • Speed - how fast the drone flies (more important with drones that don't have a mechanical shutter)

  • Height - how high above the ground the drone flies (lower = more resolution but much longer flight times)

  • Battery settings - what to do when the drone runs out of battery

Launch: Execute the pre-planned misison. Be sure to have a good plan for changing batteries.

Download and pre-process images:This may be necessary depending on the type of image settings you use.

Technical Maps: The basic steps to create a map for technical/survey use are as follows. This process is more complex because the detail and accuracy required are greater:

  • Create project in Pix4D mapper

  • Create a low resolution version of the project

  • Edit point cloud

  • Reoptimize

  • Process a high resolution version of the project

  • Edit and classify in Pix4d survey

  • Export to ARCGIS to create final products

Agricultural maps: The basic steps to create a map for precision agricultural use are as follows:

  • Create project in Pix4d Fields

  • Use analysis tools

  • Export to Agremo for more detailed AI powered analytics.

Contact us to learn more about how we can help you with this!

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