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.