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Swarming to success

Within agriculture, drones are being more widely adopted as a means of helping the agriculture and horticulture industries to make better informed decisions. That said, there is still a lot of scepticism around the data and how useful it may be. For these sectors, the biggest question is “How will this data or application improve my current decision making process and help me to make me to save, or make more money”?

Australian Training Management partnered with an intelligent agri-industry specialist business, Stratus Imaging. Straus is able to provide actionable data through the use of various platforms and sensors and most importantly combine it with analytics, offering critical data usage concepts and informed decisions. These services allow the companies to provide industry growers with a fast and efficient scouting tool that identifies weeds, disease, insect damage and nutrient deficiencies on a paddock and farm scale via sub mm resolution.

The sensors and technology utilised increases farming and agricultural efficiency, reduces costs and minimise risks, and in combining imagery with aerial applications from a swarm of drones (up to 5 drones operated by 1 pilot), allows for direct and targeted applications to be actioned in small and adversely affected areas. It also allows targeting of hard to reach areas, due to water logging or farmers not wanting to compact their crop, and never-before accessed areas due to terrain.

The image illustrates the mapping of environmental parameters in vineyards, and the optimisation of grape and wine production, enabling more effective decision making by producing digital thematic maps.

Drones on their own will never be the complete solution to all farmer and agricultural grower needs. There always needs to be an understanding of what is required from a grower’s perspective and then address those identified needs with the best and most financially viable technology available; such as using drones in swarm formation, using the latest innovative sensors and applications, as well as the catalogued and analysed data to facilitate positive change.

Ultimately, drones and their sensor applications are not replacing what farmers and growers are currently doing, but rather complimenting and raising their level of understanding. By offering a deeper insight into their operations it allows for a smarter and more informed decision making process to increase the return on their investments.

Australian Training Management is also partnering with Drones2, who a company that specialises in open source flight program drone systems, multi rotor and fixed wing, both ready to fly and customised solutions. Most ready-to-fly drone systems require Applications (Apps) to control and manage data. Open source systems enable the system to be modified to suit specific applications and for the user to maintain data security, such that all data captured will remain securely within the system's hardware.

Drone technology has advanced significantly over the last few years, as positioning systems and data capture sensors (cameras) have all become more accurate and reliable to expand the role of drones. The power of drone technology is its ability to operate autonomously and to capture vast amounts of data.

Rapid post-processing of such data enables fast decision making in the field. Western Australia is particularly suitable for drone technology - with expansive regional and remote areas, drone mapping and surveillance has benefits across land management and heritage, conservation and rehabilitation, fire monitoring, construction monitoring/quantity take-offs, infrastructure inspection and much more.

Drones2 also provides drone technology education to Western Australian school students within STEM subjects, to enhance the technical and scientific skills and knowledge of future users.

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