Kansa, USA: The Kansas State University Department of Agronomy, USA, recently purchased a new MAJA unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), with the intent of installing imaging systems on it for studying plant productivity, monitoring plant growth stages, assessing plant health and mapping plant composition for characterising changes in distribution of invasive and toxic plant species.
Kevin Price, Ph.D., a K-State professor in agriculture/natural resources/remote sensing/GIS teamed up with a radio-controlled aircraft expert, Deon van der Merwe, Ph.D., an associate professor and head of the Toxicology Section at the K-State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, to develop a very high-resolution airborne imaging system that will carry a near infrared, and a natural colour camera at the same time.
It will also be equipped with a first-person viewing video camera that will allow the researchers to view the area over which the plane is flying in real time, while recording high resolution images of the over flight area below.
The cost of the MAJA, which is battery powered, Price said, was about USD 300. The research is being funded by a USD 40,000 grant to the K-State Agronomy Department.
“It won’t be too many years from now that crop scouts will be using this technology instead of four-wheelers,” Price said. “The GPS units on these planes are so small that they will be able to load their data and it will tell the plane how to fly from one point to another transecting the entire field for the information they need.”
Once a Certificate of Authorization is obtained from the Federal Aviation Administration, the aircraft will be equipped with autonomous flying capabilities so it can be flown to predetermined locations within a line of sight.