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UAS in Agriculture: Helping businesses sow new seeds

Small UAS can provide low-cost, real-time aerial imagery and surveys with a focus on agriculture and oil & gas sectors

Canada-based Isis Geomatics, geospatial aerial imagery provider,, needed a solution that could operate reliably in challenging wind and weather conditions, was easy-to-use, and would be suitable for a broad range of applications and industries, such as agriculture, oil and gas, GIS and infrastructure inspection.

After exploring several possibilities, Isis Geomatics zeroed in on the Aeryon Scout. Designed to be flown anywhere, anytime, the Aeryon Scout can be used without extensive training in a wide variety of scenarios. The Aeryon Scout can provide precision agriculture services for high value crops, pipeline inspection and topographical mapping. Since its purchase of Aeryon Scout in June 2012, Isis Geomatics has logged more than 500km (310.7 miles) and 40+ hours of flight time.

The Problem
Perry Produce needed timely, high-resolution remote sensing data to aid in its potato production. To date, traditional aerial and satellite imagery were the only options to collect the data, but neither could provide the spatial and temporal resolution needed by the customer. Th is provided an opportunity for them to be part of a pilot project with Isis Geomatics to assess and develop a process for collecting high resolution data using a small UAV.

Experimental design

  • Sensor selection: The required data was to be presented as a Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). Isis Geomatics determined that red and near-infrared bands were needed to create the NDVI. The solution that they ultimately selected would need to include a standard RGB sensor and a near-infrared sensor to capture the data for the project.
  • Image capture: After extensive research, Isis purchased an Aeryon Scout small UAS to acquire aerial imagery. The platform is very reliable, stable and intuitive for mission planning, which was a “must have” for this research and development project.

Using the Scout small UAS with the Aeryon Photo3S high resolution colour camera and Aeryon Photo3S-NIR near-infrared camera, Isis was able to collect weekly imagery over a variable rate irrigation potato field near Lethbridge, Alberta. Sampling was also done, on the ground during the imaging process, using scientific instruments which measure chlorophyll, leaf area, and per cent cover of the potato plants. These in-situ measurements were critical in relating the information from the imagery to the actual physical and chemical processes in the plants on the ground. Using this information Isis was able to provide the end users (grower, agronomist, irrigation OEM) with ultra-high resolution NDVI maps of the potato fields on a weekly basis.

The net effect was an increase in average yield by 20% and a cost reduction of inputs by 20% netting the grower a 40% total gain.

“The Aeryon Scout is our business,” says Owen Brown, founder, Isis Geomatics. “It offers us a reliable, easy-to-use method of acquiring data and imagery and providing that data back to our clients in a useable, valuable format.”

“The Scout allows us to focus on our business rather than the platform. Other platforms were not as reliable, functional or easy-to-use,” notes Stephen Myshak, co-founder, Isis Geomatics.