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CropTalk: Population Estimations Made Easy With Drones

June 2019

Published on Monday, June 10, 2019

CropTalk: Population Estimations Made Easy With Drones

The idea that population is one of the key factors in yield has been widely accepted. With many advancements in planting equipment and monitoring, we can place seed with unprecedented accuracy and generate an exact record in real time. There is one factor in agriculture that no current technology can control, though. The weather can foil even the best-laid plan or best planting equipment. Historically, farmers who already find themselves with a very busy schedule calculate stand counts manually.

Many people have seen drones in action and viewed the imagery and aerial perspective they bring. Previously, we were only able to show data as differences between the qualities of vegetation within the field. Now, a farmer can assess a field with a simple drone and create a map showing the population of either corn or soybeans for each acre of the field. Figure 1 is a 100-acre sample of what the output of the data looks like. The data in this image took approximately one hour to garner from start to finish. This includes flying the drone as well as data creation and analysis. In comparison, complete data coverage by hand would take all day to scout and collect. The good news? Beck’s agronomists will be armed with this technology for the 2019 growing season thanks to a new partnership between FARMserver® and Sentera. You can be too.

Using the Integrations feature in FARMserver, users with a Sentera subscription can link the two accounts together for a seamless wireless transfer of data and images. FARMserver will then pull any uploads from Sentera’s FieldAgent™ into the user's account. QuickTile maps, weed density analysis, and even a stand count analysis will all automatically transfer into FARMserver for use in queries, scouting notes, and more.

How Does It Work?

By using a Phantom 4, Phantom 3 Pro, or Mavic from DJI, a farmer will fly their field using the Sentera program for controlling the drone and data management. The drone will fly at 50 ft. and take one highresolution photo per acre. This is a much wider pattern than the drone normally uses to create imagery, meaning the flight time is much faster. When the drone lands, the photos are loaded into a laptop computer at field’s edge, requiring no internet connectivity. In less than ten minutes the data is displayed, allowing the farmer to make decisions. Using this data, the farmer can make management decisions pertaining to population.

How Much Does It Cost?

Beck’s has negotiated an introductory offer for 2019. For $500, a FARMserver user will get a Sentera subscription as well as unlimited population analytics. The regular price is $250 for a subscription and 25 cents per acre. In addition, a FARMserver subscription is free for Beck's corn and soybean customers.

What Do I Need To Get Started?

  • Drone with iPad or iPhone
  • Computer
  • Sentera subscription through FARMserver

As we look forward, we see several other data collection opportunities that will be actionable for your farm, including weed density and nitrogen management. Many farmers have received drones through Beck’s Commitment Rewards program that are able to collect this data. It is our goal to bring you technologies that will add value to your operation by saving you time, money and increasing yields. It is our belief this partnership will meet more than one of those criteria.

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Author: Jim Love

Categories: CropTalk, 2019


Jim Love

Jim Love

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