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How flying robots can increase your yields?

Recent years brought a dynamic development of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, commonly called drones. Everyday press races in descriptions of newly appearing, not only military, applications of these appliances. This year the company Fotomapy from Poland implemented, in cooperation with a Swiss company Pix4D, a unique method for using drones in precision agriculture. 



A person managing a farm has to monitor the state of growing crops on a regular basis. But how to do it accurately from the ground? Here comes a drone, which takes hundreds of pictures from the air, using its special multispectral camera. Thanks to the use of this camera we obtain two maps – a standard orthophotomap in visible light (RGB) and near close infrared map (NIR). Next, Pix4D mapper Index Calculator can precisely define the degree of plant welfare and hence we can plan crop fertilization more effectively as well as save up to 30% of expenditure on fertilizers.


RGB map


What is interesting is that the method described is available and first farms already use it! In 2014 the company Fotomapy executed an order from the Farming-Manufacturing Cooperative Conglomerate in Dębno (the region of Leżajsk) consisting of a series of air raids performed in order to prepare a map of plant welfare (measured by the NDVI coefficient). Thanks to the analysis of the data received from the air raid the customer obtained detailed information on the growth of crops and the demand for greater fertilization in particular areas. This allowed for an accurate verification of the previous policy of fertilization and for proposing changes aimed at increasing the farm’s effectiveness.

- Our farm has 700 ha and the costs of fertilization constitute a significant part of our budget. Thanks to the data delivered to us by Fotomapy and to comparing them with our previous information on soil, we made an audit of previous areas of alternating fertilizing. Next year and beyond it will allow us to decrease the expenditures linked to the purchase of fertilizers. Additionally we could also precisely calculate the surfaces of our parcels, which we will use next season for the purpose of clearing with the Agency for Restructuring and Modernization of Agriculture (operator of UE direct payments for farmers) – says Edward Słabiak from the Farming-Manufacturing Cooperative Conglomerate in Dębno.  

- Introducing a new technology on the market of services for farmers wouldn’t be possible without a long-lasting experience with the Polish drones Pteryx as well as the software Pix4D Mapper, which turns hundreds and sometimes even thousands of pictures taken into maps. It also calculates coefficients of plant welfare. We can also use the electromagnetic scanning as well as soil samples as additional measurements. – says Tomasz Maik, the CEO of Fotomapy Ltd.


NDVI map


The technology of using drones has also an important application in farming. Thanks to the orthophotomap prepared by the team of Fotomapy Ltd. the customer can very accurately calculate the surface of parcels, which allows to precisely fill in the application forms for direct payments and to avoid errors whereas the time needed for the preparation of the documentation can decrease significantly. In case of potential disputes with the Agency for Restructuring and Modernization of Agriculture a current orthophotomap will always constitute an irrefutable evidence. Another application of this technology is the determination of surfaces of hunting damages made by wild animals, which is important while submitting documentation for compensation from the State Forests or from an insurance company.

The basic advantage of using drones in farming is the speed of measurements and the possibility of their cyclical repetition. Thanks to this we can obtain comparative data and react on time if crop conditions change.

This is how the new technology and drones appeared above our farms and fields. Thanks to their usefulness, fast development of equipment and software, the synonym of modern farming can very fast change from a tractor with a parallel drive system, into a small flying robot.


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