Unmanned Aerial Vehicles To Fly Near Hermiston For Potato Research

eBee

Two small, remote-controlled aircraft are expected to start flying over potato fields in the Hermiston area this month as part of Oregon State University’s efforts to help farmers more efficiently use water, fertilizers and pesticides to bolster yields and cut costs.

While taking photographs, the aircraft will fly over 50 acres of OSU’s 300-acre Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center (HAREC), as well as several crop circles totaling about 1,000 acres at a research cooperative farm west of Boardman. The flights will take place at least three times a week until the potatoes are harvested in the fall, beginning with a test run Wednesday at the Boardman farm.

OSU researchers will use various cameras on the aircraft to photograph the potato plants. The cameras will include ones that detect different wavelengths of light. One of these wavelengths, infrared, is reflected by plants, but unhealthy plants reflect less of it, and in infrared photographs sick plants are much darker. Researchers will also explore using other wavelengths of light to determine which ones will be most helpful in identifying troubled plants.

Researchers aim to see if the cameras, which are capable of zooming in on a leaf, can detect plants that aren’t getting enough fertilizer and water. They’ll purposely reduce irrigation and fertilizer on some plants and will then see how quickly, if at all, the equipment detects the stressed plants. If it works, the scientists hope that the project will continue in subsequent years so they can test the cameras to also find plants that are plagued by insects and diseases. The idea is to help farmers take action before larger crop losses occur and it becomes more difficult and expensive to control the problem.

“The key is to pick up plants that are just beginning to show stress so you can find a solution quickly, so the grower doesn’t have any reduced yield or quality issues,” said Phil Hamm, the director of HAREC. “This in turn can save money. It’s an early warning system for plants with issues as well as an opportunity for growers to reduce costs by being more efficient in water and fertilizer use.”

Potatoes were chosen as the focus of the research because they’re a high-valued crop, expensive to raise and must be carefully managed to reduce internal and external blemishes and irregular growth spurts, said Don Horneck, an agronomist with the OSU Extension Service. One of Oregon’s leading crops, the state’s farmers sold $173 million of potatoes in 2012, according to the USDA. But spuds are prone to devastating problems caused by diseases and insects, said Horneck, who is the lead researcher from OSU on the project.

“They are one of the most difficult and expensive crops to grow,” he said, adding that it typically costs Hermiston farmers $4,000 or more per acre to grow them. That equates to about $500,000 for the average size of field in the area.

OSU hopes that the aircraft it tests will reduce these costs. The aircraft that will fly over OSU’s land is called a HawkEye and is sold by a company called Tetracam. About the size of a suitcase and weighing only 8 pounds, its maximum flight time is 10-30 minutes. The hull-less, battery-operated machine is easy to operate and was made for farmers with plots of land that are less than one square mile. A motor and propeller allow it to take off on four wheels. A parachute keeps it in the air.

A delta-winged aircraft made of plastic foam will fly over the private farm. Made by Procerus Technologies and called a Unicorn, it has a wingspan of no more than 6 feet and weighs less than 6 pounds. A bungee cord launches it like a slingshot. OSU is inviting the public to see the HawkEye fly during its potato field day at its Hermiston research center on June 26.

Allaying concerns about privacy, Hamm said, “These unmanned aircraft are for agricultural research only and will be used to do nothing more than that. This is about helping our local growers do a better job of growing crops, something HAREC has been doing for the past 102 years.”

The Federal Aviation Administration has authorized the flights of the aircraft, which aren’t allowed to fly higher than 400 feet and must stay within sight of the operator, typically less than a mile away.

OSU is leasing the aircraft from Boeing Research & Technology. n-Link, an information technology firm in Bend, is also a partner in the project. Ray Hunt, a plant physiologist with the USDA in Beltsville, MD, will collaborate with OSU’s Horneck on the data analysis.

OSU aims to become one of the nation’s premiere universities using unmanned aircraft for research. It is using or has plans to use them in studies on natural resources, wildlife, land-use management, forestry, oceanography and engineering.

Leave a Reply

Guidance Stories
Trimble-GFX-750-Display
GuidanceTrimble Introduces GFX-750 Display System with Advanced Guidance Controller
October 30, 2017
Trimble has introduced the Trimble GFX-750 display system for agriculture applications. The display system comes with the simple-to-install, roof-mounted NAV-900 Read More
Beacon
GuidanceDigiFarm VBN Announces Supplier Agreement with AGCO
September 7, 2017
DigiFarm VBN LLC, an agricultural technology company, announces it has signed a supplier agreement with AGCO Corp., a world-leading manufacturer Read More
Young Corn Field
GuidanceOutback Guidance Launches Hands-Free Farming Campaign at Farm Progress Show
August 30, 2017
Outback Guidance, a leader in automated steering and advanced precision farming solutions, and a part of AgJunction, Inc., is launching Read More
GuidanceRaven Announces 2 New In-Cab Technologies
August 23, 2017
Raven Industries announces the release of two new precision agriculture products: RS1 and CR7. The RS1 combines autosteer, GPS, and Read More
Trending Articles
Farm-Storm-Clouds-Photo-Eden-Hills
Data ManagementThe Precipitation Problem in Agriculture
April 17, 2018
Precipitation is arguably the most important agricultural weather parameter, yet it is the most difficult variable to precisely measure. For Read More
SDSU-drone
Business ManagementInside the Key Strategies For Selling Precision Ag Services
April 13, 2018
In its earliest manifestation, the motive for developing precision agriculture service was entirely pure. Agronomists knew that crops were responding Read More
CROO Robotics’ automated strawberry harvester
Robotics/Labor SaversSpecialty Crops: Get in Gear Now for Agriculture’s Robotic Revolution
April 11, 2018
While the immigration debate rages on in Washington, DC, with little chance for reform in sight, the uncertain labor picture Read More
InSiteDCM
Business ManagementDelivering on Ag Data Value
April 3, 2018
Bruce Baier is another deeply experienced precision agriculture manager who survived the early years of ag technology while riding the Read More
University-of-Georgia-photo-credit-USDA
Business Management25 Best Colleges for Precision Agriculture
March 21, 2018
Choosing the right college is a process. It’s one that I’m just now embarking on with my teenage daughter. Long Read More
Farmer-tablet
Decision Support SoftwareOpinion: The Missing Link in Precision Agriculture
March 15, 2018
The agtech boom over the last two years is indeed astonishing. Farmers are becoming more open to new, emerging technologies Read More
Latest News
Sentera-FieldAgent
Industry NewsSentera, The Climate Corp. Partner to Enhance Agronomic…
April 24, 2018
Climate FieldView customers can now enjoy seamless integration of Sentera FieldAgent on-field sensor and analytics products with FieldView, as well Read More
Field Sprayer
Sensors/IoTHere’s What’s Working with the Internet of Things ̷…
April 24, 2018
With the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), we are now seeing farmers use more wireless technologies to increase Read More
Case-Header-2
Industry NewsAustralian Company Offers On Combine Analysis Technolog…
April 24, 2018
Next Instruments is an Australian manufacturer of instrumentation for the grains and food industries. Over the last 5 years Next Read More
corn field
Industry NewsNutrient Ag Solutions Launching New Digital Farming Pla…
April 24, 2018
Nutrien’s retail division – soon to be rebranded as Nutrien Ag Solutions – has announced the launch of a new Read More
Industry NewsClimate Corp Announces 5 New FieldView Integrations
April 23, 2018
The Climate Corporation announced the addition of five industry-leading partners to The Climate Corporation’s Climate FieldView digital agriculture platform. The Read More
Laura_Crook_WinterWheat_Blackgrass_PrecisionAg
Industry NewsKansas Software Outfit Ag Developer Announces agX Integ…
April 23, 2018
Ag Developer, a Kansas based software development company, is simplifying grower/advisor communications by connecting to the agX Platform, according to Read More
field_in_back_1000_wd-featured-image
Industry NewsAyrstone Introduces High-Speed WiFi System for Farms
April 20, 2018
WiFi has become a necessity, and a proliferation of new WiFi devices have come to market for urban homes and Read More
Indian-Agriculture
AsiaIndian IoT Platform for Pre and Post Harvest Raises See…
April 19, 2018
Indian startup AgNext has raised an undisclosed seed round led by India-focused Agtech VC Omnivore Partners along with Singaporean angel Read More
Bayer-Forward-Farming
Industry NewsMaryland Farm Opens as Hub of Learning about Sustainabl…
April 19, 2018
Fourth-generation Maryland farmer Trey Hill measures the success of his operation not just by how many bushels of corn, soybeans, Read More
THRIVE
Industry NewsAgritech Startup Backers Announce New Corporate Partner…
April 18, 2018
Entering its fourth year, the THRIVE Venture & Innovation platform announced today the nine finalists and investment in its spring Read More
computer-in-field
EventsFinding Our Way in the Business of Precision Agricultur…
April 17, 2018
Service providers are the essential link between precision agriculture products and practices and the farmers who are increasingly relying on Read More
Farm-Storm-Clouds-Photo-Eden-Hills
Data ManagementThe Precipitation Problem in Agriculture
April 17, 2018
Precipitation is arguably the most important agricultural weather parameter, yet it is the most difficult variable to precisely measure. For Read More
Digital-Farming
Business Management7 Factors That Could Make or Break Digital Farming
April 13, 2018
Digital farming is the new technology genie – a genie that is now out of the bottle and cannot be Read More
SDSU-drone
Business ManagementInside the Key Strategies For Selling Precision Ag Serv…
April 13, 2018
In its earliest manifestation, the motive for developing precision agriculture service was entirely pure. Agronomists knew that crops were responding Read More
Facebook-phone
Data ManagementWhat Lessons Can the Ag Industry Learn from the Faceboo…
April 12, 2018
Today, a seemingly endless amount of ag data flows from growers’ fields into a host of technology platforms. It is Read More
DronesWhen High Value Crops Meet Inaccessible Areas: How Dron…
April 12, 2018
Avocados are one of the few crops in Chile that can economically be commercially cultivated on hills. On one hand Read More
Almond-trees-blooming
Sensors/IoTWhy Virtual Sensors Could Save California’s At-Ri…
April 12, 2018
To say that the Golden State can lay claim to the title of king of almonds might be an understatement. Read More
AgJunction, InfoAg 2014, Autosteer, GPS
Industry NewsAgJunction Launches Online Store, Low Cost Guidance Sys…
April 12, 2018
AgJunction today announced the opening of the HandsFreeFarm.com online store to bring low-cost, simple-to-use precision agriculture solutions direct to all Read More