Use of drones or satellites in agriculture
The Gamaya hyperspectral imaging camera is specifically optimised for deployment on drones and caters for many of the existing applications, while facilitating a wide range of radically new usage scenarios in agricultural domain. The use of drones is a good way to automate the process of data acquisition, while dramatically reducing the costs of operating an aerial platform. The question of scalability is really critical for industrial growers. The following table summarizes the advantages and disadvantages of using drones versus satellite for agricultural applications.
As seen from the table, the main disadvantages of satellites is high dependency on weather conditions, and particularly clouds, and limited spectral resolution of the satellite data. Unfavorable or periodic revisit time of a satellite can also pose a problem for multiple agricultural applications. Typically there are requirements for a minimum order of the satellite data, that can cost up to several tens of thousands of dollars, as the order for the satellite data is usually placed for 100’s to 1000’s sq. km. However, satellites provide a perfect way to scale data acquisition process with a systematic monitoring of land on a large scale. Revisit time can also be improved by a constellation of multiple satellites.
Drones with integrated narrowband hyperspectral cameras, such as Gamaya camera, resolve the issue with spectral resolution of the data. Drone imagery is available on a demand providing a higher flexibility to address different agricultural applications, i.e. detection of diseases that can spread within few days. As the operating altitude of drones is typically less than 500-600 meters, drones can decrease substantially a dependence on weather conditions, such as clouds. Costs of the data acquired by drones can be from 10 to 100 times more expensive per hectare than costs of a satellite data. Generally, drones provide a limited way to scale the process, particularly for large industrial growers.
At Gamaya we see a combination of satellites and drones as a way to address different agricultural applications. While satellites can be used to provide crop monitoring services for large industrial growers and large areas of land, the usage of drones can be relevant for high value crops and small-holder farms, where it’s required to have a high spatial resolution, and the average farm size is no more than 50-100 hectares.