Frequently asked questions

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions we have been asked with regards to UAVs, our services, and NDVI in particular...

Do I need to get Drone Ground School Training?

If you are using a drone for any purpose other than for the sheer enjoyment of flying, Transport Canada considers it a "commercial" activity (for work or research), and requires you to complete a UAV Ground School training program.  

What is an SFOC?

The Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) is a document issued by Transport Canada which could be considered to be something like a license to fly a drone (it is not technically a license though...!).  It is required in order to fly a UAV for commercial purposes.  It is FREE to apply for, and covers your operations to a maximum of 1 year from the date of issue.  You need to re-apply annually for your SFOC.

What is the Transport Canada Exemption from an SFOC?

The SFOC application process is arduous at best, and requires a great deal of commitment and attention to detail.  If you don't have the time to go through the application process, you can see if you are able to meet the conditions set forth in the Transport Canada Exemption from an SFOC.  There are currently two categories of Exemptions: 1) UAVs that are 1kg or less; and 2) UAVs that are between 1kg-25kg.  The conditions are different for each, based on the assumed risk of operating larger UAV systems.  

What are the new regulations that were brought forward in June 2017?

The new rules apply only to the recreational use of model aircraft (recreational drones). An Interim Order was put in place on 17 June 2017 which acts as a temporary set of regulations to deal with a pressing safety issue pending the development of permanent regulations.  They ca be found right here in the Canada Gazette, Part 1.

What is the difference between commercial and recreational drone operations?

If you fly your drone for fun and it weighs more than 250 grams and up to 35 kilograms, you do not need special permission from Transport Canada to fly.  If you stand to gain benefit from flying a drone, where the purpose of the flight is essentially for any purpose besides the sheer enjoyment, Transport Canada considers that a commercial operation.  The following definitions (as written by Transport Canada) apply to the use of unmanned aircraft for both work and play:

model aircraft means an aircraft, including an unmanned aircraft commonly known as a drone, the total weight of which does not exceed 35 kg (77.2 pounds), that is mechanically driven or launched into flight for recreational purposes and that is not designed to carry persons or other living creatures.

unmanned air vehicle means a power-driven aircraft, other than a model aircraft, that is designed to fly without a human operator on board.


How long has NDVI been used?

NDVI images have been gathered by satellites since the 90s, however, the quality was always quite low.  The use of UAVs to gather NDVI is a very new development in precision agriculture.

The first Section 333 (FAA) exemption allowing commercial use was issued for precision agriculture UAV operations in January 2015 in California.  Originally, vineyards were the main target crop; now, UAV prices have come down enough to make it profitable for all types of farming.

What are UAVs used for?

UAVs are being used in agriculture for the following:

- Crop scouting
- Crop health monitoring (largest ROI)
- Field surveying / scouting (before planting)
- Nitrogen recommendations
- Yield monitoring
- Plant stress monitoring
- Drought assessment
- Drainage management
- Topographical mapping

What actionable data will be provided from NDVI crop health analysis?

The data gathered from our NDVI and infrared thermal imaging will help growers assess the following:

- Plant height
- Plant count
- Plant health
- Presence or lack of nutrients, disease and weeds
- Relative biomass estimates
- 3D / Volumetric data (piles, holes, patch, and hills)
- Orthomosaics (georeferenced aerial imaging with homogeneous scale)

What is NDVI?

Normalized Difference Vegetation Index.  A visual representation of your relative crop health into a familiar colour display system: Red > Yellow > Green.  NDVI is only one ingredient in the recipe though, and you still need boots in the field for ground truthing.

It is important to have a strong understanding of the crop varietal, the history of the field, the growth stage, applications, moisture, and temperature.

NDVI makes crop scouting more effective and efficient.

When should I use NDVI on my fields?

NDVI is best used over several months or years to get the best understanding of the growing patterns.  In order to get an accurate understanding of the saving / profit as a result of using NDVI, you would likely need to use the services for two or more seasons to draw strong correlations.

NDVI should be used several times throughout the growing season.  Between the 2-3 leaf stage of germination, mid-growth, and even prior to seeding.  Following a mild winter, you are able to detect damage earlier.

Which crops are best SUITED for utilizing NDVI?

NDVI can be applied extremely well in grain-corn areas as nitrogen requirements often exceed what is applied by seeding time - you can use NDVI to help calculate nitrogen topdressing rates.

Potatoes would also benefit greatly as NDVI can help identify disease or pest outbreaks before they become detrimental. 

What can Thermal Infrared Imaging be used for?

M3 Aerial Productions uses the DJI Zenmuse XT by FLIR, a thermal imaging sensor and camera which has several uses in precision agriculture. 

Infrared thermal imaging can measure temperature differentials across surfaces to detect / predict water stress in plants, called a CWSI (Crop Water Stress Index).

It is also possible to get an accurate gauge of the relative soil salinity without having to take soil samples.

What is a geo-referenced Orthomosaic map?

When an elevated camera takes a photo, the image's scale becomes warped and distorted from its center point towards the margins.  Objects do not appear to be sized accurately, leading to miscalculations of distances, sizes, and volumes.

Our UAVs can take pictures every 0.5 seconds, and our software allows us to stitch together all of the images to create one large image called an orthomosaic.  This image is referred to as "geo-referenced" because the scale is homogenous - the same - throughout the entire image.  

This is important when creating 3D terrain and volumetric maps.  This technology is very useful in agriculture, construction and development, mining, and many other industries.

What results can I expect from using M3 Aerial?

Increased yields and decreased costs of applications has resulted in savings ranging from 10-30%.  This increases your profit margin substantially.  There is great variability in these numbers as there are several factors that can affect these outcomes, such as past practice, yield price that year, and weather / environmental factors.

Being able to identify an insect infestation days, or weeks before they explode could save thousands of dollars.  However, if bugs don't show in the field normally, there may be no savings in that area.

Why Drones vs. other forms of crop management?

Using our drone service will save you precious time.  It takes a great deal of time to go through the Transport Canada SFOC (Special Flight Operations Certificate) required to fly UAV for commercial purposes.  It takes time to train on the operating systems and software.  It takes time to set up, fly, process and analyze data, and prescribe solutions based on the data. 

M3 Aerial Productions is a leader in the industry, with highly trained pilots who are committed to providing excellent customer service.

UAV provide the highest degree of precision, far superior to satellites, which allows you to assess the data more reliably.  This leads to earlier detection of problems.

Why not allow us to help you manage multiple irrigation pivots by doing quick and accurate nozzle inspections.

Why M3 Aerial Productions?

We use the best equipment on the market.  The Ag Eagle RX60 is capable of covering 500+ acres in one 45-60 minute flight session.

We provide the highest quality of customer service.

We will provide you with training and support that you need if you decide to purchase our products.

We are working with the University of Manitoba Faculty of Agriculture to help provide you with the most current innovations in the industry.

We offer agronomist consulting services if you require, to provide the "whole package approach."

We are committed to our community.  This technology is great for the economy, the environment, and your wallet!