Bringing The Field to the Farmer: How Drones and Virtual Reality Are Changing Field Scouting

Imagine it is early-July in the Canadian Prairies, a scorching 37 degrees Celsius and you've already put in a solid 12 hour day.  You've seen the NDVI (normalized difference vegetation index) crop health analysis of your canola field and it looks like there's a big dead spot - or stressed zone right in the middle.  The thought of trudging through three and a half feet of thicket in the sweltering heat seems pretty terrible right about now.  So, why not bring the middle of the field to you instead ...with the help of some technology, of course!

Soybeans located near Winnipeg, Manitoba in mid-July

Soybeans located near Winnipeg, Manitoba in mid-July

In 2016 M3 Aerial Productions Inc. was the first company to combine precision agriculture with drones, and virtual reality. We are taking crop scouting to a new level, by allowing a farmer to feel as though they are in the middle of the field, while they sit comfortably in their air conditioned office or truck. By utilizing 360 degree video capture technology with a high performance aerial UAV platform, we can provide this near-real time experience on site, or for in-depth analysis at the office.

Using the Sentera NDVI sensor technology and AgVault software, we are able to capture the crop health data from a field, and process it with the QuickTile feature for instant field-side analysis. We can identify stressed areas that require a closer look, and fly directly to them for a "virtual crop inspection."

A 360 degree sensor can record video in 4K, which can then be analysed either on the computer, on a tablet at field-edge, or using a Virtual Reality headset. We provide our clients who subscribe to this service with their own headset to keep. You can pause the video, and zoom in to get a closer look, looking in any direction. It truly provides the sensation that you are standing in your crop. To supplement the video, we also take high resolution images using a 20MP RGB camera which, when taken mere inches from the plant, can provide a great deal of information. You can see insects, or leaf colour striations indicating various diseases.

The Virtual Reality Crop Inspection Experience is in it's early stages, but we believe that as the technologies continue to develop, this will be a staple in the agronomy world. Visit the link below to see a prototype video of our service on YouTube and *note* that you can click on the video and move it in any direction that you would like to look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHgk3Df00B0

Please contact us if you are interested in learning more @M3Aerial on Twitter and Instagram!

Matthew Johnson

M3 Aerial Productions, Wolseley, MB,

I am a professional educator, serving member of the Canadian Armed Forces, UAV pilot, and owner of M3 Aerial Productions.

I am pleased to provide the community with amazing images they have never seen before, of their homes, farms, cottages, and more.