The CREAF has started a new research project in the field of remote sensing. The main novelty of the project is that it uses drones, or unmanned aircraft (UAV) to study crop characteristics.
The CREAF leads the research under the direction of Dr. Aleixandre Verger, in collaboration with INRA (Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique) and the company Airinov. The AgriUAV is a project of international nature, which pursues the transfer of knowledge between public and private sectors.
The UAV technology opens up new horizons in precision agriculture and allows for a continuous and low cost monitoring of crops.
The main objective is to characterize how crops evolve. In addition, improving the optical sensors of aircraft was included among the scientific objectives. The unmanned aircraft permit the obtainment of information with a high spatial resolution (a few cm) and temporary (programmable flights). This facilitates the preparation of crop maps with very precise information. Through these maps, scientists can calculate some parameters that serve to describe the health of the crops observed.
One of the factors that is calculated with these planes is leaf area index (LAI), which allows you to tell how much the crop is growing and its nitrogen needs. This index indicates the surface that the the foliage occupies with respect to the surface of the soil, and is dependent upon physical factors (availability of water, nutrients, etc.) and biological factors such as the size of plants and foliage. Another variable that is calculated is chlorophyll content (Cab), which is used to tell if the crop is suffering from stress or if plants are well-fertilized.
From this project, the researchers also want to develop technologies through the UAV that can serve to track the blooming or ripening of the fruits of cultivated plants.