Field measurements from home office?

Soon possible with our automatic drone system

Drone on landing platform
Our UAV on the landing platform inside the hangar.
Forschungszentrum Jülich (IBG-3)/Carsten Montzka

More and more companies use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, drones) to monitor their processes, and few are working now with high degrees of automation. Besides parcel delivery and recording warehouse inventory, vegetation next to railway tracks is monitored by autonomous UAVs following a preprogrammed flight path, and which are able to circle around obstacles. A human drone pilot is currently only necessary for security reasons. So why not using such automatic UAVs in sensing soils and crops?

The automated UAV system on the trailer
The automated UAV system on the trailer during an experiment at our TERENO Selhausen test site.
Forschungszentrum Jülich (IBG-3)/Carsten Montzka

Farmers may gather real-time data on crops, detect irregularities as early as possible, and take informed decisions about using fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and irrigation. With our automatic UAV we are able to remotely perform spatially distributed measurements of plant and soil characteristics, e.g., at our TERENO test sites (Selhausen, Rollesbroich, Wüstebach). The system consists of an air-conditioned hangar, which protects the drone system from criminal acts and weather conditions, and charges the drone between flights. To be flexible in the selection of observation sites, it is placed on a trailer. The UAV is equipped with a multispectral and an infrared camera. We control the system by 5G connection and the SkyGate software on a laptop. 5G allows the drone to fly beyond visual line of sight, i.e. to fly into the Selhausen area or any other area from any remote location, also from home office. Currently, we are waiting to obtain the allowance from legal authorities.
Our research focuses on the quantification of states and fluxes in the soil-plant-atmosphere domain. We investigate the plant health status in relationship to soil texture and corresponding nutrient and water availability, as well as cooling effects during evapotranspiration. The system was specifically designed to monitor diurnal cycles of canopy temperatures. This information is meant to inform hydrological and crop models to enhance the simulation of water, nitrogen and carbon fluxes and to enhance their forecasting. Especially research about the influence of heat waves on the related processes gain importance to provide managing options and measures to mitigate increasing future drought events. The Digital Geosystem Rhenish Revier as well as the Cluster of Excellence “PhenoRob – Robotics and Phenotyping for Sustainable Crop Production” benefit from these research activities.

Vegetation pattern in Selhausen
Vegetation pattern as a combined result of the crop cultivation with the subsurface soil texture in the Selhausen area as seen by a multispectral camera.
Forschungszentrum Jülich (IBG-3)/Carsten Montzka
Last Modified: 24.05.2022