UAV maps farmland

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QinetiQ and Aberystwyth University’s biosciences centre have successfully completed the UK’s first flight of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for agricultural monitoring.

The flight, the culmination of phase one of the UAVs for Managing Agricultural Practice project, demonstrated the feasibility of using UAVs to deliver high resolution images to the agricultural, forestry and environmental monitoring sectors. According to the project, farmers and foresters increasingly need accurate and timely information on the state of the land they occupy. For example, by mapping the fertiliser requirements of arable crops, farmers can ensure they only apply the precise amount of fertiliser required, saving them money and protecting the environment. The QinetiQ team acted as systems integrator for the specially adapted UAV platform, which undertook more than 15 flights during the ‘work up’ phase and in support of data gathering. The UAV captured specialised video images that were used to create normalised difference vegetation index maps – indicators of the amount of vegetation present that can be used to determine fertiliser requirements. “The UMAP project brings together emerging UAV technology with the growing need for farmers to fully understand the land they have under cultivation,” said Clive Richardson, chief operating officer of QinetiQ's EMEA business. “With these recent flights, we have successfully shown that UAVs are an affordable and flexible alternative to manned aircraft and satellites for the remote sensing of agricultural land.”