Precision agriculture on-demand with drone mapping

When a crop is damaged, there's no time to waste. Pix4D technology offers precision agriculture on-demand.

A valuable, vulnerable crop

England’s ‘green and pleasant land’ is dappled with brilliant yellow rapeseed fields. The crop (also called rape, oilseed rape, and canola) is known for its characteristic bright-yellow flower and is cultivated for its oil-rich seed.

Rapeseed is one of the highest yield oils - its dark black seeds are 45% oil - and the other 55% is high protein animal feed.¹ It’s one of the world’s major oil crops, and of the 70 million tonnes produced annually, 2.2 million tonnes is produced in the UK. Rapeseed is one of the most common break crops in the country. Break crops are generally a pulse or oilseed crop grown instead of cereals. Introducing a break crop typically improves productivity and economic value.²

As a high input, high output break crop, oilseed rape has become increasingly important over the last decade for intensive arable farmers. It can provide a good income and goes well in a rotation with wheat, which is often the most profitable cereal crop.³

Rapeseed oil field drone map
Drone image of a rapeseed field

However, rapeseed is extremely vulnerable to a large number of pests, diseases and animals such as wild game: particularly pheasants and partridges. In addition, this year the major pest has been cabbage stem flea beetle (CSFB) which although has been a problem in the East is now a major problem further west.

To make this crop more viable, farmers and service providers across the UK are exploring new technologies such as drone mapping and precision agriculture to scout and assess the fields for any potential issues.

Digital agriculture in action

A drone, camera, and software, as a part of digital agriculture workflow, can be major factors in increasing crop productivity or enabling more focused crop protection.

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One of our Pix4D Ambassadors, Chris Eglington, CEO of Crop Angel, has been using drone mapping in agriculture for years now and believes the drone usage and remote sensing are both becoming more common and their use is likely to increase.

Crop Angel specializes in the delivery of agricultural services using UAV technology. They were one of the first companies to offer crop spraying drones within the UK. They also work closely with YEN (yield enhancement network) on their momentum project which involves farmers trying out different treatments and timings of various applications onto various crops to optimize workflows and yields.

Project details

CompanyCrop Angel
LocationNorfolk, England
Project descriptionField assessment of pheasant/wild bird damage to rapeseed crop
Project size6.1 ha/15 ac
Data capture432 images totalling 3,118 MB
Processing time6 minutes
HardwareDJI Phantom 4 Pro + DJI RGB camera
SoftwarePix4Dfields desktop, Pix4D Cloud
OutputsOrthomosaic, index map

A rapeseed farmer was concerned about the damage caused by pheasants, and needed an accurate damage assessment of his field. The farmer asked the Crop Angel team if drone mapping could help.

Crop damage estimation with drone mapping

Eglington performed one flight using the DJI Phantom 4 Pro mounted with a DJI RGB camera. Once the data was collected, the 432 images were uploaded and processed in Pix4Dfields.

“With Pix4Dfields software, which I have used before - I know I can just process my images directly in the field without needing an internet connection. Plus I can show the damaged areas to my client immediately,” Eglington states.

The total processing time for this project was six minutes.

precision agriculture orthomosaic of a canola field
Orthomosaic of a rapeseed field generated in Pix4Dfields

The initial overview showed two main damaged areas which the index map supported even further.

“With an index map you get another level of certainty. In this case is pretty obvious even just from the orthomosaic, but there are cases - like pest damage where an index map will show more information than the orthomosaic,” Eglington points out.

precision agriculture index map of a canola field
TGI index map of the rapeseed field generated in Pix4Dfields

With the PDF report tool, Eglington created an overview of different software outputs his client requested and then continued to the area damage assessment. Once the orthomosaic was generated, Eglington uploaded it to the Pix4D Cloud and by using the measure tool calculated the size of the damaged area.

Bird damage in a crop field mapped with drones and precision agriculture
Measuring the damaged area in Pix4D Cloud

“I think it’s important to have tools to support your work, because in situations like these it becomes essential to have a way to prove and provide context fast and accurately in order to negotiate compensation,” Eglington concludes.

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¹ "Break Crop Benefits - West", Grain Research and Development Corporation, 3 March 2011 Back to top
² "Who what why: Why is there more oilseed rape being grown?" BBC News, 29 May 2012 Back to top
³ "The supply chain of fats: Rapeseed oil", Sustainable Food Trust, 26 July 2018 Back to top

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