3D Robotics Drone helps farmers with precision agriculture

Below is an excerpt from a story I originally wrote for 3D Robotics. I also directed and produced the accompanying video. Note: this project was completely unaffiliated with Drone Girl; I’m simply reposting it here on the blog.

Vigneron Paul Sloan spends a lot of time walking up and down his vineyards.

He walks every vineyard that he farms once week — all 14 of them. He sometimes walks them 2-3 times a week depending on how critical decisions are. Those are issues like irrigation leaks, color variation, or pests like nematodes.

Sloan, a winemaker and viticulturist at Small Vines Wines, still intends to walk through his vineyards, but he now aims to walk with more intention.

By using a drone manufactured by 3D Robotics, Sloan can use aerial images captured by a camera mounted to the drone which pinpoint areas in his vineyard that need more attention.

“If you flew before you walked, you could use that image to take you to specific places that could be of concern,” he said. “This might be able to help us show where the hot spots are, where the critical areas are.”

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Those critical areas are places where water pressure isn’t high enough or irrigation lines are broken. Sloan can spot where those issues are with aerial images based on color difference, growth patterns or size.

“More yellowish leaves versus bright green leaves would give you bigger variation,” Sloan said. “Less vigorous would tend to be more yellow in color — you could tell it has less nitrogen.”

From looking at the images, Sloan could physically walk those targeted areas to decide what the issue is.

“It’s not going to prevent you from being in your vineyard,” he said. “It’s just going to give you a more targeted reason for being in your vineyard.”

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