Remote techno chopper will enable broader surveillance
From the August 2011 edition of Agriculture Today.
The astronomic cost of weed control and production losses they cause are well documented but how do we really know what weeds are where in precise quantities?
The rapid detection capacity of a highly equipped small helicopter or unmanned autonomous vehicle (UAV) will tell more precisely.
Paterson’s curse and silverleaf nightshade in managed agricultural locations, and serrated tussock and lantana in natural and less managed settings are among the key targets in a new project.
Considerable work has been carried out in Australia on spatial distributions of weeds in crop fields and the factors responsible for their distribution patterns but little has been reported to quantify distribution in broader landscapes.
The UAV, equipped with hyperspectral imaging technology, will map different weed life cycles in different habitats.
The Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation will fund EH Graham Centre researchers, Dr Remy Dehaan and Professor Leslie Weston, at Wagga Wagga under the National Weed Research Program.
“Hyperspectral remote sensing is a relatively new technology that clearly identifies separate plant materials,” Professor Weston said.
“The systems rely on the ability of the sensor to detect greenness and typically work best when weeds emerge before crops develop or when weeds project above the crop canopy.”
Weed detection is less reliable when the pre-sowing window is small or weeds are abundant or mixed with other vegetation in less managed situations.
The necessary UAVs and sensor technology are now commercially available and offer advantages over satellite and traditional manned airborne systems, particularly the flexibility to collect data cheaply.
Inspiration to deploy optical sensors in aerial platforms came from current systems such as WeedSeeker, which use sensors to target herbicide applications and thus reduce herbicide use.
Hyperspectral imaging and remote sensing research also offers land managers another pest monitoring tool to detect insects and pathogens, and vary application rates of agrichemicals.
Potential commercial applications for the research include monitoring invasive vertebrate and insect pest infestations and their impacts on crops, and monitoring water flow and riverine drainage systems.