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
John-Deere-Cab-GPS
Data ManagementPrecision Ag Hardware and Software: A Little Off-Season Maintenance Goes A Long Way
January 11, 2018
All service technicians have heard this line. Most often when spring makes its anticipated return to our lives. It is Read More
Anez-Consulting-Paul-Anez-and-Michael-Dunn
Service ProvidersAnez Consulting: Focus On Fertility
January 9, 2018
Central Minnesota features variability aplenty when it comes to soil characteristics and topography, from flat, black expanses rich in organic Read More
Agrishow2017
Americas5 Best Ag Tech Shows in Brazil
January 8, 2018
Brazil continues to demonstrate its potential in agriculture. Several international companies are investing in our country because we have a Read More
Farmer and computer
Service ProvidersPrecision Agriculture Writers Wanted To Join Our Team in 2018
December 10, 2017
About The Opportunity: PrecisionAg.com is looking for people to join our team in 2018 and submit original content to our Read More
Harvested-Corn-Field-Clouds
Data ManagementWeather Services Advance Precision Agriculture
December 4, 2017
Some estimates suggest over half of growers’ activities are impacted by weather conditions, from field workability to fertility management to harvest Read More
Wheat-an-oats-Daniel-X-ONeil
Data ManagementWill Open-Source Finally Unlock Ag Technology’s Potential?
November 28, 2017
To Aaron Ault’s eyes, ag technology right now is something like a walled garden — not unlike the Microsoft of Read More
Latest News
Lee_Brittany
Specialty CropsFlorida Blue Farms Digging Data for Savings and Profit
January 17, 2018
Brittany Lee is no stranger to land management, writes Frank Giles on GrowingProduce.com. She grew up around it, observing her parents Read More
AmericasPrecision Farming Companies to Watch in 2018 (OPINION)
January 17, 2018
My friends, as many of you told me repeatedly throughout the last 12 months, 2017 was an interesting year in Read More
farmer-tractor-ipad
Data ManagementThe Era of Digital Agriculture: Opportunities and Chall…
January 17, 2018
The digital revolution is changing the way agriculture is done. Rapid population growth, changes in market demands, depleting agricultural land, Read More
Data ManagementBlockchain: Making Data Cleaner, More Secure
January 16, 2018
Probably most professionals who deal with business data have at least heard the term “blockchain” bantered about as potentially the Read More
Soybean-field-clouds-Photo-courtesy-of-Earl-R-Shumaker
Data ManagementBetting on Rain? The Accuracy and Reliability of Precip…
January 16, 2018
For you sports junkies out there, if I could prove to you that I can correctly predict winners and losers Read More
center-pivot-irrigation-drop-sprinklers-on-corn
Precision IrrigationFinding Your Precision Ag Mindset
January 15, 2018
A precision mindset is the most important requirement for successful precision ag technology adoption. One of my first VRI (variable Read More
Drone-and-operator-Photo-courtesy-of-Kray-Technologies
DronesCrop Protection Application by Drone: A Q&A with Kr…
January 15, 2018
January is a busy month for agricultural companies. It’s a month that strong sales can set the mood for the Read More
Data ManagementAgGateway Grain Traceability Proof-of-Concept Seeks Ind…
January 15, 2018
AgGateway’s Precision Agriculture and Grain & Feed councils have issued a call for participation for a proof-of-concept initiative in AgGateway’s Read More
John-Deere-Cab-GPS
Data ManagementPrecision Ag Hardware and Software: A Little Off-Season…
January 11, 2018
All service technicians have heard this line. Most often when spring makes its anticipated return to our lives. It is Read More
Corn-Planter
Grower Services & SolutionsCorn Planter: The Train of Consequences
January 11, 2018
It’s always planter season in our shop but now that harvest is done the corn planter is the next piece Read More
Robotics/Labor SaversSmart Ag Announces Driverless Tractor Automation Platfo…
January 11, 2018
An Iowa technology company has unlocked the tremendous potential for automation in agriculture by developing the first cloud-based platform for Read More
Anez-Consulting-Paul-Anez-and-Michael-Dunn
Service ProvidersAnez Consulting: Focus On Fertility
January 9, 2018
Central Minnesota features variability aplenty when it comes to soil characteristics and topography, from flat, black expanses rich in organic Read More
Agrible
Grower Services & SolutionsAgrible to Launch Retailer Services in 2018
January 9, 2018
It’s a new year, which means new market challenges. Full service retailers are searching for ways to differentiate themselves and Read More
jeremy-speaking
Grower Services & SolutionsGrower and Precision Ag Services: Opportunities Lost
January 9, 2018
I often spend time with growers, talking about their operations, and the processes they go through each season to do Read More
Winters-Farming-farm-manager-Alex-Bergwerff-and-Ranch-Systems-marketing-and-business-development-manager-Hylon-Kaufmann
Precision IrrigationInside California Irrigation: Winters Farming
January 9, 2018
As many of us already know, almonds tend to get a bad rap for their water-use efficiency — or some Read More
Sentera software
DronesSentera Offering Elevation Data Mapping Via AgVault
January 9, 2018
Sentera announces the availability of elevation maps within the Sentera AgVault platform, offering agronomists, crop consultants, and growers additional field Read More
Industry NewsRaven, South Dakota State University Link Up: What You …
January 9, 2018
On Tuesday afternoon Raven and South Dakota State University (SDSU) held a press conference on the SDSU campus in Sioux Read More
Agrishow2017
Americas5 Best Ag Tech Shows in Brazil
January 8, 2018
Brazil continues to demonstrate its potential in agriculture. Several international companies are investing in our country because we have a Read More