NDVI camera drone

The best NDVI camera drone on a budget

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about agricultural drones with an NDVI camera AND on a budget. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

I am heavily involved in the farming industry and have people interested in crop analysis with an NDVI camera. I am wondering what you would recommend purchasing at this time with the Phantom 4 Pro no longer in stock. I can’t justify the Inspire price tag.

The Phantom 4 Pro out of stock certainly does throw a wrench in things, but you still have options for an NDVI camera drone that’s still budget-friendly.

The most cost-efficient, while still high-quality, way to incorporate a NDVI camera on your drone is via the Sentera NDVI upgrade specifically for DJI drones.

Sentera, which is a respected precision agriculture company, offers a product to upgrade DJI drones if they’re a DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0, Inspire or Mavic drone. You’re right, the Inspire is going to cost you some money, and the Phantom 4 Pro has been discontinued, which for now leaves you with the Mavic drone.

The Sentera sensor on the DJI Mavic 2

You can choose either a High Precision NDVI or NDRE 1.2MP NIR global shutter Single Sensor. Either option integrates directly into DJI’s software, so photos are geo-tagged and time-stamped to enable quick, streamlined field scouting and identification of problem areas. You can also use Sentera’s FieldAgent tool to order a fully-stitched mosaic

Sentera’s Mavic upgrade costs $1,999 (not including the price of the Mavic drone). We recommend pairing it with the latest model, the DJI Mavic 2.

And while the Mavic upgrade is the default/only option, it’s a great option! The DJI Mavic 2 is fairly robust in the wind, able to withstand speeds of 29–38 kph, offering 31 minutes of flight time and a more stable video transmission system.

For some context on how small Sentera’s NDVI sensor is.

Since you’re likely flying over large fields, you’ll appreciate the drone’s improved OcuSync 2.0 video transmission system, which means stronger interference resistance and auto-switching capabilities that supports both 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz frequency bands. Even up to 8km away, you’ll still get 1080p video transmission feeds (on the drone’s built-in camera). And in the event you’re flying near trees or other obstacles, an improved Advanced Pilot Assistance System (APAS) allows the aircraft to analyze its surrounding environment and automatically fly around obstacles without stopping.

For those of you unaware, NDVI, the normalized difference vegetation index, is an important graphical indicator for farmers to analyze remote sensing measurements and assess whether the land contains live green vegetation or not. NDVI images help farmers prescribe fertilizer applications, estimate yields and identify weeds.

Here’s how it works: you buy the Mavic. Then, you’ll have to send in your drone to Sentera or a Sentera-authorized dealer, and they’ll return it as a precision ag tool, fully equipped with your new NDVI camera (you can also buy one already upgraded).

One important note that could be a dealbreaker: upgrading your Mavic 2 drone (or any DJI drone) with the NDVI or NDRE sensor nullifies the DJI manufacturer’s warranty.

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