US: New funding of $150,000 from Oregon BEST and the Portland Development Commission(PDC) to a startup company working with Oregon State University could help Oregon become a national leader in the development and use of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) or drones in precision agriculture and forestry applications.
The UAS technology being developed by HoneyComb Corporation could potentially save farmers irrigation, fertilizer and labor costs by pinpointing areas where crops are stressed so farmers can respond locally, reducing input costs, decreasing runoff, and boosting yields. Part of the funding supports data collection and analysis known as ground truthing, or sending technicians into the field to gather data on the ground to compare with remote sensing data collected by aerial photography, infrared images, etc.
The HoneyComb system measures reflectance in the visible and near-infrared spectrum, which can be used to calculate the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), an indicator of crop stress. In imagery, healthy and vigorous plants are colored green, whereas highly stressed plants are red. This allows farmers, consultants, or service providers to quickly hone in on problem areas.
The technology doesn't yet determine what's wrong with plants, but that they are under stress, which could be from a lack of water or fertilizer, encroachment of weeds, over-irrigation, etc. The funding is also enabling HoneyComb to add thermal imaging technology to the system, which will indicate moisture levels in plants and show where irrigation needs adjustment.
Source: Oregon BEST