Why Drones? Have a seat...

Whether you are the foreman on a construction site, the senior manager for a mining operation, or a farmer or agronomist managing hundreds or thousands of acres of cropland; there are several things that you must first consider when considering the purchase of a drone.  First and foremost, you have to ask yourself, "why?"

Why do I need a drone:

AGRICULTURE: 

NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) analysis of some potato fields in Western Manitoba.  The colour changes based on the health of the plants.  In these cases, the potato fields are surrounded by wheat, which has a much lower reflectance value than the potatoes so it appears to be "dead" - even though it was thriving.

NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) analysis of some potato fields in Western Manitoba.  The colour changes based on the health of the plants.  In these cases, the potato fields are surrounded by wheat, which has a much lower reflectance value than the potatoes so it appears to be "dead" - even though it was thriving.

Drones are being used in agriculture for a multitude of purposes.  A standard "entry-level" drone that makes a good initial addition to the farm data tool-kit is a DJI Phantom series drone.  Whether you want to go with a Phantom 3 Standard, Advanced, or Professional - or even a Phantom 4 Professional; or the amazingly tiny DJI Spark!  The most significant features, the photo and video gathering abilities, are fairly similar across all platforms.  The main benefits of these beginner drones, is that they allow the ability to get a complete perspective of the crop.  Just being able to see the entire crop from above, on a daily basis if necessary, is a revolutionary step in agriculture.

If an aerial perspective on your crops is comparable to the first planes ever being used for reconnaissance during warfare; coupling that technology with an infrared remote sensor would be like strapping into an F-18.  In the last couple years, drones have been used quite extensively in agronomy to provide a comprehensive plant health analysis (NDVI) of crops throughout the growing season.  With this data, farmers can make management decisions such as: increasing/reducing fertilizer concentration on areas in the field.  Some areas may require more Nitrogen to jump from "good" to "great!" in terms of yield estimates; alternatively, if an area is not going to benefit by adding fertilizer, a farmer can refrain from applying it and pocket the savings.

With NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) analysis provided by drones, farmers can identify areas with increased weed growth, disease activity, and pest infestations.  Don't forget about water stress!  For more information on NDVI and how it can benefit your operation, visit our "Agriculture" section.

Digital Elevation Model of a rather hilly area in Western Manitoba near Glenboro.

Digital Elevation Model of a rather hilly area in Western Manitoba near Glenboro.

Another crucially important benefit that drones are providing to the agriculture world is the ability to create highly accurate topographical digital elevation models.  These models allow farmers to properly drain their fields by knowing exactly where, and how deep they need to dig trenches.

CONSTRUCTION, MINING, OIL & GAS:

UAVs are able to reach areas that may pose undue risk to employees, and thus become invaluable tools to inspect structures, such as bridges and towers, and also for detailed roofing inspections.  A UAV outfitted with an infrared thermal FLIR camera is capable of identifying areas on a building with excessive heat-loss, which can then be addressed accordingly.  They can also provide real time project updates to management who may be located around the Globe!  

One major tool that extends across many industries, including mining, agriculture and construction is the ability to create 3D terrain models.  From these models, site managers are able to make volumetric calculations of piles of aggregate, or other valuable measurements to help with inventory tracking and reporting.  

So if you have not considered introducing a UAV to your operation, whether agricultural, mining, construction or otherwise, you might want to ask yourself, why?

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.