Project Details:

Investigating Potential Applications of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs) for Soybean Production in Tennessee

Parent Project: This is the first year of this project.
Checkoff Organization:Tennessee Soybean Promotion Board
Organization Project Code:19-101-R
Project Year:2019
Lead Principal Investigator:Lori Duncan (University of Tennessee-Institute of Agriculture)
Co-Principal Investigators:

Contributing Organizations

Funding Institutions

Information and Results

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Project Summary

Precision agriculture data acquired from Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs) have the potential to provide real-time spatial and temporal site-specific information that will enable Tennessee soybean producers to increase production, reduce input costs, and manage farmland more efficiently. The objective of this project is to test currently available UAS technology to determine the potential applications of these systems for acquiring high-resolution data for site-specific management of soybean production systems in Tennessee.

UASs also have the potential to capture high-resolution remote sensing data that can be used for site-specific crop management. Cameras fixed beneath an unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV, are capable of collecting high-resolution visible, multispectral, and thermal imagery for applications in precision agriculture management. Visible imagery can be digitally processed into maps that give an indication of stand count, weed infestation, crop progress, or crop damage from floods and wildlife. Thermal imagery can be used to map soil moisture and plant canopy temperature, enabling assessment of irrigation management and efficiency. Multispectral imagery enables the calculation of vegetation indices that related to crop vigor and plant health which can be used for yield prediction mapping and management zone development, as well as precision fertilizer, pesticide, and seeding applications – all of which can boost crop health, reduce input costs, and increase yields by improving management decisions. While remote sensing data acquired from conventional platforms such as satellites and manned aircraft are currently available, the major challenges that have limited agricultural applications of these remotely senses aerial images are their high cost, low-spatial resolution for certain applications, and dependency on weather conditions. As a result, very few soybean growers are using this technology in their farming operations for making site-specific management decisions, This is particularly true in the case for small- to medium-size soybean growers. The recent development and availability of low-cost UASs could increase the number of soybean producers utilizing remotely sensed data in their farming operations.

Acquiring high-quality, stable data with UASs is challenging; standard operating procedures should be developed such that data is usable and accurate. As the technology of remove sensing fro UAVs evolve, it will become increasingly more important to find the quickest and most cost-effective ways to acquire and process the data, store it securely, and manage it for ease of use and scalability to be of value to producers.

Project Objectives

1. Form an integrated, multi-disciplinary team consisting of agricultural engineers and scientists to develop Extension/applied research programs to assist producers and crop consultants in utilizing UASs in soybean production systems.
2. Investigate potential applications of UASs for site-specific management in soybean production systems by leveraging and supporting other soybean research projects.
3. Identify environmental attributes that impact the stability of UAS-acquired data.
4. Develop image acquisition protocols and image processing procedures for converting raw remote-sensed data to site specific information to enhance the utility of UAS-acquired data.

Project Deliverables

Progress of Work

Final Project Results

Benefit to Soybean Farmers

Precision agriculture data enables Tennessee soybean producers to make site –specific management decisions. Data collection has to be timely, cost-effective, and have minimum disturbance on the growing crop. Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs) may be the next tool to improve precision agriculture data collection. Open potential application of UASs for soybean production is directed crop scouting – with cameras mounted beneath UASs, producers or crop consultants can stand on the edge of the field with a ground station and get a bird’s eye view of the filed. While images obtained from UASs will not replace scouting a field on foot, they can direct scouts to specific areas in the field where diseases, insects, and weed infestations are detected. UASs will enable soybean scouts to more effectively cover the entire field in a fraction of the time it takes to do it on foot and make better site-specific recommendations for pesticide applications.

Performance Metrics

Project Years