A flexible unmanned aerial vehicle for precision agriculture
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An unmanned aerial vehicle (“VIPtero”) was assembled and tested with the aim of developing a flexible and powerful tool for site-specific vineyard management. The system comprised a six-rotor aerial platform capable of flying autonomously to a predetermined point in space, and of a pitch and roll compensated multi-spectral camera for vegetation canopy reflectance recording. Before the flight campaign, the camera accuracy was evaluated against high resolution ground-based measurements, made with a field spectrometer. Then, “VIPtero” performed the flight in an experimental vineyard in Central Italy, acquiring 63 multi-spectral images during 10 min of flight completed almost autonomously. Images were analysed and classified vigour maps were produced based on normalized difference vegetation index. The resulting vigour maps showed clearly crop heterogeneity conditions, in good agreement with ground-based observations. The system provided very promising results that encourage its development as a tool for precision agriculture application in small crops.
KeywordsHigh resolution images Normalized difference vegetation index Multi-spectral images Vigour maps Vineyard
The authors are grateful to Francesco Sabatini (IBIMET—CNR) for his valuable assistance in the platform assembly, to Piero Toscano (IBIMET—CNR) for his knowledge of image processing tools, to Tiziana De Filippis and Leandro Rocchi (IBIMET-CNR) for software development assistance and to all the Mikrokopter staff without whom “VIPtero” would never have left ground. A special thanks goes to Azienda Agricola Comparini for hosting the operational test. This work was supported by a dedicated grant from the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance to the National Research Council for the project “Innovazione e Sviluppo del Mezzogiorno—Conoscenze Integrate per Sostenibilità ed Innovazione del Made in Italy Agroalimentare—Legge n. 191/2009”.
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