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There is no denying the future of drones or UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) in agriculture. The uses are endless – from 3D mapping, contour creation, elevation, slope, aspect models, solar radiation, vine counting, NDVI’s (given you have the correct camera and you can calibrate the NDVI), disease detection, harvest planning and so much more!

Missing Vines

I bought myself a DJI Phantom Standard 3 early January. The initial buy was a toy – it pretty much still is a toy though, but what I learned from playing around with it just amazed me. The versatility of these machines are unbelievable.

One of the farms that I manage has 240 hectares of vineyards. That is a tall order to cover in a morning with a quadbike during the season, and with expensive labour costs we need to plan and manage as good as possible. Using my drone I can easily see visual differences in the blocks. Our attention and focus will shift to these areas and we will try to find the cause and the solution. Soil differences and chemical imbalances can be spotted very easily, but would not have been possible from ground level.

11 hectare block Chenin blanc with visible struggling vines – issue? Saline soils with high clay content

9 hectare block Cabernet Sauvignon with one region struggling – issue? Saline soils with high clay content

Yes you can use satellites, but you have to wait for it to pass your region, download the data and rework the data into a NDVI to see what is going on. And if it was a cloud covered day, well, then you will just have to wait some more.

We do use NDVI’s in conjunction with drones, continuous loggers in the soil and Fruitlook data (biomass and ET values), but the drone is visually always on call. I am sure you can use it even better than what I am currently doing, but this is still a learning curve for me and MAN am I having fun!!!

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