UC DroneCamp Coming June 18-20

UC Offers Drone Workshop for Mapping, Research, and Land Management

By Pam Kan-Rice, UC Ag & Natural Resources

People who are interested in using drones for real-world mapping are invited to attend a three-day intensive drone workshop in the Monterey Bay area. The third annual DroneCamp will be offered from June 18 to 20 by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources’ Informatics and GIS Program. No experience with drone technology is needed to participate.

Drone mapping involves taking high-resolution photos with drones and stitching them together with software to make extremely accurate, orthorectified maps. More difficult than videography, it is widely used in agriculture, construction, archeology, surveying, facilities management, and other fields. DroneCamp will cover all the topics someone needs to make maps with drones, including:

  • Technology—the different types of drone and sensor hardware, costs and applications
  • Drone science—principles of photogrammetry and remote sensing
  • Safety and regulations—learn to fly safely and legally, including tips on getting your FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate
  • Mission planning—flight planning tools and principles for specific mission objectives
  • Flight operations—hands-on practice with both manual and programmed flights
  • Data processing—processing drone data into orthomosaics and 3D digital surface models; assessing quality control
  • Data analysis—techniques for analyzing drone data in GIS and remote sensing software
  • Visualization—create 3D models of your data
  • Latest trends—hear about new and upcoming developments in drone technology, data processing, and regulations

On the first day, DroneCamp instructors will discuss drone platforms, sensor technologies, and regulations. On the following two days, participants will receive hands-on instruction on flying safely, using automated flight software, emergency procedures, managing data, and turning images into maps using Pix4D mapper and ArcGIS Pro.

Registration is $900 for the general public and $500 for University of California students and employees. Registration includes instruction, materials, flight practice and lunches. Scholarships are available.

This year, DroneCamp is being held in conjunction with the Monterey Bay DART (Drones Automation & Robotics Technology), which is holding an industry symposium on Friday, June 21. DroneCamp participants get a $50 discount to attend the symposium.

For more information and to register for DroneCamp, please complete the registration form at http://igis.ucanr.edu/dronecamp. Registration fees are due by June 1, 2019.

Study: Remote Sensing of Weeds on Vineyards Has Merit

Aerial Sensing Of Weeds Saves Time and Labor

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

There is a potential use of remote sensing with drones and vineyard weed management. Working on that research is Cody Drake, a senior at California State University, Fresno. He’s working with Luca Brillante, an assistant professor in the Department of Viticulture and Enology. Anil Shrestha is chair and professor, also in the Department of Viticulture and Enology at Fresno State. Drake’s research is at a vineyard in Napa County.

“The goal of my research is to make weed management practices in vineyards a little more efficient,” Drake said.

Currently, there is a lot of manpower, money, and time going into scouting for weeds and spraying.

“What we did with the drone is we wanted to map high-pressure weed zones to target spray in the field instead of spraying the entire field,” Drake explained.

This aerial scouting is hoping to become more efficient for time and labor.

“It’s all based on imagery. The drone gives us waypoints as to the areas where we need to spray. We have a company that’s called Drone Deploy, and they go through, and they stitch all the photos together,” Drake said.

Drake’s research has only been on vineyards so far, and his research has been proven to work.

“We did a 30-meter flight and a 10-meter flight, and that just shows the difference in how close you can get to identifying weeds species on the ground at a 30 meter height,” he said.

At 30 meters, it was very hard to tell which species was which. At 10 meters, the weeds were more identifiable.

“We would prefer to do another trial with a higher resolution camera. That way we can see the species, identify them a little easier and a little more efficiently,” Drake said.

By doing this, Drake and his team can pinpoint where the heavyweights are and just go spray that one area. For future research, they are going to try a camera with higher resolution to see if it can see through a denser vineyard.

When it Comes to Drones, No Limit with Aerobotics

Aerobotics Drones Detects Disease Early in Orchards

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor

Drones are continuing to make a big appearance in the agriculture industry, and with new technology from Aerobotics, they’re not leaving the sky any time soon. James Paterson, co-founder and CEO of Aerobotics, has news of a fully automatic solution for collecting aerial data fields to help maintain healthier trees.

“It’s to detect disease problems in the orchard, and the reason that’s such a difficult problem is that it’s done as a manual process at the moment, called scouting,” Paterson said.

Although scouting has always been a go-to method, it only guarantees certain points of the field to be checked. Paterson said that the new Aerobotics system will allow the entire farm to be monitored down to each individual tree.

“So what our system does is it tracks each tree, and if it identifies that a tree is under stress, it sends a scouting route to the user’s smartphone for them to go and investigate,” Paterson explained.

Aerobotics has a network of accessible drones available for those farmers who do not have their own. All they need is the software system, and to visit aerobotics.com to get started.

Nomad Technology Consulting: Digital Technology For Ag

There are Ag Tech Providers Around the World

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Looking beyond borders is helping find technology for agriculture, according to Adrian Percy, formerly with Bayer Crop Science and now the owner of Nomad Technology Consulting. And he is excited to bring new solutions to agriculture.

“One of the things that were apparent to me working at Bayer is that there was so much beyond our borders, a lot of exciting ag tech out of there, a lot of passionate entrepreneurs trying to make a difference and bring new solutions to agriculture,” Percy said. “However, when I left Bayer a few months ago, I dived in and began working with many new technology providers across the globe who are looking to bring new solutions to various areas of ag tech. I desire to help and advise them.”

AgTech Experts At Recent AgTechx Event at Bayer Crop Science’s West Sacramento Research Facility, sponsored by Western Growers Association.

Digitalization is clearly going to be one of those new areas in agriculture, and basically, it’s going to help ag in many ways.

“I think our growers make more informed decisions about how to manage their crop, and so whatever type of crop that will be, whether it comes to time for harvesting and other areas, I think this is all going to be enabled by digital tools,” Percy explained.

The use of drones and high-resolution cameras will be aiding in combating pests.

“Do you take the use of drones with high-resolution visualization cameras? There are companies now that can detect insects that are less than half a millimeter,” Percy said.

“You may be able to detect the arrival of early disease pressure in a field or early insect infestations and perhaps send out another drone to zap those critters and protect fields with minimum use of crop protection chemistry,” Percy continued.

Building trust will help data sharing at some level.

“They may have to share their data to trust in that process, and a lot of companies are working on how they can build that trust with growers,” Percy explained.

Percy said the need to farm sustainably would help farms in the future.

“I think the fundamentals have always been strong. I know we go through periods of difficulty with low margins and commodity prices, for example, which are not strong right now, but the need for the future and the need for sustainable farming is always going to be there.”

Caltec Ag Keeps the Industry Up to Date

Caltec Ag is Busy with Research to Help Farmers

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor
Rudy Monnich

It’s no secret that technology is more advanced than it’s ever been, and the agriculture industry is no exception. Rudy Monnich, president of Caltec Ag, is helping to ensure that growers are provided with new and innovative technology to improve their crops.

Caltec Ag is a consulting and contract researching group based out of Modesto. They have been in business for about 64 years, and throughout their farming and research, they know firsthand that advanced technologies are key to progressive farming. Not only do they distribute products throughout the United States, but Monnich explained that this year, they are doing over 300 test blocks, mostly on crop protection materials that are all new and innovative.

Research between Caltec Ag and a company they work with led to the discovery of a new organic bacteria that Monnich described as “just phenomenal.”

He also highlighted the effectiveness and efficiency of drones that the company was able to observe in Japan. Not only was the drone able to spray specific locations of a field versus the entire thing, but it was more effective when it came to getting photographs and the data behind it.

“That’s what’s really important to the growers,” Monnich said.

A Master Class On Drone Mapping

Learning About Drone Mapping

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Greg Crutsinger, a Drone Ecologist with Scholar Farms, recently spoke at the Bayer Crop Science AgVocate Forum in Anaheim. Crutsinger directs consulting and training services with a special emphasis on drone vegetation and aerial drone mapping.

He’s a professional ecologist and a former professor who left academia to join the Silicon Valley drone industry, where he has worked with some of the leading drone hardware and software companies. Scholar Farms’ core values are to consistently seek to provide best in class training experiences for their clients.

Their list is growing, with clients across a range of commercial industry interested in mapping plants with drones. They include agricultural, forestry, environmental consulting, local and state agencies, GIS Surveys, scientific applications, service providers, and much more. Crutsinger spoke of the upcoming master classes Scholar Farms will be hosting

“We are launching our master class. We’re still dialing in the pricing, but it will be couple hundred bucks,” Crutsinger said. “If you take the course, we’ll walk you through from zero to hero. It’s all online, so it’s a self-paced video series that will give you an example data sets; you don’t even have to have a drone and it will give you the complete background on drone imagery, all the sensors, all the hardware, and you can just take it at your own pace.”

People with a wide range of job in skill levels are welcome to take the class.

“We’ve made it broad so it’s really just a master class for mapping plants. So you could be a grower, you can be an agronomist, you could be a service provider, such as flying drones for farms, but you could also be an ecologist or forester or a public agency,” explained Crutsinger.

“The tools are pretty similar but it’s the interpretation that folks will have to do for themselves, for their farm, or for their crop,” said Crutsinger. “We can’t do it all, but it will get you started and get you out there collecting data. Folks can follow @ScholarFarms on twitter, and we’re excited to talk to folks. We are a new company and we’re happy to be in the state.”

The Latest Buzz in ‘RoboBee’ Research

Thanks to recent headway in RoboBee research and development, these mechanized pollinators could be headed to a greenhouse near you soon.

Guest Editorial By Tim Jennings, President of Custom Case Group, Maker of DroneHangar

My company has been manufacturing custom cases in the drone and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) industry for decades. Because we’re involved in so many facets—from the military to the consumer and agricultural segments—my team is often privy to advancements early on. Being a drone enthusiast myself, I try to keep up with the latest developments on my own time, too.

Today, some of the most exciting activity I’m seeing is in the field of agricultural drones, where researchers are making major progress toward mainstreaming RoboBees—tiny drones capable of pollination and other forms of indoor crop maintenance. While open-air agricultural applications, such as crop scouting and pesticide application, are now standard, there’s been little progress in indoor agriculture applications—until now.

New microdrone research in the U.S. and Spain could soon allow RoboBees to run greenhouses and large-scale indoor farms around the globe.

“RoboBees” – The Pollinators of the Future

RoboBees have been on the scene for some time through a collaborative project between teams at Harvard University and Northeastern University. The teams have been working together about 12 years to create “swarms” of tiny worker drones capable of tethered flight. The drones, with wingspans of just 1.2 inches, weigh less than real bees, but, tiny as they are, RoboBees are the result of some intense collaboration among experts in dozens of fields, including neurobiology, computer science and chemical engineering.

The Latest Advancements

Perching & Takeoff. It seems simple: Design a tiny drone that can take off and land easily. However, perching and takeoff have turned out to be among the most critical functions and toughest challenges in RoboBee development. This year, though, the Harvard team may have a breakthrough. The functions of perching and takeoff are critical because they allow the drones to “rest,” protecting them from the mechanical fatigue and power drain of constant flight. The team reported the possible breakthrough in an article in the journal Science titled, “Perching and Takeoff of a Robotic Insect on Overhangs Using Switchable Electrostatic Adhesion,” where they suggest that electrostatic forces allow the small drones to “stick” to different surfaces, such as plant leaves. And the power required to generate those forces is less than what’s needed to keep the RoboBee in flight.

Indoor Environmental Mapping. Large drones that can map and negotiate complex outdoor environments have been around a while; however, small size has been a major limitation in the development of drones capable of indoor mapping. So far, the massive data collection and processing necessary for environmental mapping requires a machine too large for indoor use. But that may be changing.

This year, a research team from the Centre for Automation and Robotics in Spain published a paper titled “Heterogeneous Multi-Robot System for Mapping Environmental Variables of Greenhousesin the journal Sensors, where they describe a heterogeneous robot team capable of monitoring the environmental variables inside greenhouses. They call the drone team, which includes aerial and ground drones, a “system” that understands and negotiates its surroundings by way of a shared multi-sensor application.

The drones within the system, some of which have cameras for visual monitoring, can also measure factors like soil and air temperature, humidity, luminosity and carbon dioxide concentrations in the greenhouse environment.

How Soon?

It could be a couple more years before RoboBee teams will totally manage indoor crops. But advancements like that above ensure this tech is headed to the mainstream fast. What are your thoughts on drone automation for indoor agriculture? Where do you see this tech bringing the industry in the next 20 years?

Feel free to share on the California Ag Today Facebook page; we’re interested in knowing what you think.

Technology Advances Agriculture

Mike Wade: Technology Advances Agriculture

By Charmayne Hefley, Associate Editor

As it improves, technology advances agriculture; growers find ways to incorporate new advances. Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition, said, “Agriculture has always adopted new available technology once it becomes affordable. Farmers are willing adopters to become more efficient, whether it’s drip irrigation, soil management or reducing evapotranspiration.”

Wade said farmers are using drones on their farms to further advance their agricultural efficiency. “Drone technology isn’t something magical,” he said, “it’s simply a way to fly sensors over a field to gauge water use, evapotranspiration, plant stress, disease pressure and any number of different sensors a drone can carry to gather information for farmers to make better crop production decisions.”

Wade said, “California agriculture leads the world in food production and food quality. We have a direct partnership with consumers around the world. It’s important for agriculture to tell its story, for farmers to talk about the great improvements made with the new technology they adopt and to enhance the relationship we have with the consumers who buy our food.”

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The California Farm Water Coalition was formed in 1989 in the midst of a six-year drought. CFWC was formed to increase public awareness of agriculture’s efficient use of water and promote the industry’s environmental sensitivity regarding water.

UC Gets FAA Clearance to Research Drone Use in Ag

A UC laboratory at the former Castle Air Force Base in Atwater received clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly dones at the Merced County Radio Control Club’s field, reported Thaddeus Miller in the Merced Sun-Star.

The unmanned aircraft are part of a project funded by the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources that aims to study the possible use remote controlled aerial imaging to provide real-time information to farmers about water use and crop health.

The project leader, David Doll, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Merced County, has put together a project team that includes UC Merced professors and graduate students, and UCCE advisors and staff.

Drones are also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Doll believes small, basic UAVs can provide a platform for imaging hardware that can vastly improve crop surveillance to enhance water usage and pest control.

Doll’s project will test the potential of UAVs for water management and pest monitoring. He also plans to write a curriculum to extend information to farmers and demonstrate the use of small, remote controlled aerial vehicles as imaging platforms.

UC Merced also has other plans for using drone technology in research. They are seeking FAA approval to fly the aircraft over the university’s protected land, which includes 6,500 acres of grassland and vernal pools.

Dan Hirleman, dean of UC Merced’s School of Engineering, said the university’s use of drones and development of new technology could set it apart from other schools.

“We’re kind of at the ground zero for a lot of what’s going on in those areas,” he said. “It’s just a perfect fit with our sustainability theme and the application area.”