A: We recommend the DJI Mavic Pro for field mapping, as it is a lightweight and versatile drone system that can be folded away for ease of transport. It also has a 12 megapixel camera and we can upgrade it with the NDRE or NDVI sensor from Sentera. (This sensor is additional and does not replace the standard camera).
A: It depends which package you want and which drone you buy. Most DJI drones come with a decent carry case when bought new, however you can often get a better case if you buy the “fly more” bundle, which also comes with extra batteries.
A: You can carry up to two lithium batteries on a flight if they are over 100Wh, but you aren’t restricted on any batteries under 100Wh. It is best however, to check with your airline before taking them. You also have to keep the batteries in your hand luggage.
A: Again this depends on which drone system you have, but they range from 15-30 mins.
A: Most DJI drone systems have an RTH safety feature built in, but you shouldn’t rely on it. If you see your drone getting low on battery, it’s best to land it yourself.
A: This depends upon whether or not you’re planning to operate drones for commercial purposes. In the UK, the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) require that any drone operators that are operating for ‘commercial gain’ (i.e. to make money) obtain a PFCO (Permission For Commercial Operations) from them. This involves a course, including written and flight tests. We run the courses here at our Northumberland base and you can book them through the website.
A: You can fly any drone in very light showers, but it is not advised. However, some drones like the DJI M200 and DJI AGRAS are IP rated and can be flown in the rain.
A: Since the RTK (Real-Time Kinetic) unit is built into the drone, the only extra step is to position and turn on the ground unit and wait for it to acquire a GPS-lock before powering on the drone system.
Q: We have land containing electricity pylons and/or radio/phone towers, should we worry about interference affecting the system?
A: For operators that expect to experience electrical or signal interference during flight, we suggest using RTK (Real-Time Kinetic) systems for optimal safety. The built-in RTK unit enables the drone to hover with centimeter-level accuracy due to the improved GPS data, making slight interferences to the transmission system less potentially dangerous. They are also hardened against magnetic interference.
If RTK options are outside your budget, careful flight planning will still allow you to cover the majority of your land.
A: This depends on how confident you are in your abilities. We wouldn’t advise flying in winds of over 20mph.
Cameras and Sensors
Frequently asked questions
A: No, multispectral sensors, generally speaking, collect light from various wavelengths that the human eye cannot distinguish. The ones used in drone mapping tend to include near-infrared and/or red-edge light.
Thermal cameras on the other hand, capture light that is specific to the long infrared wavelengths, or “thermal infrared” bands.
Hyperspectral sensors are like special multispectral sensors, where instead of capturing between 2 and 10 bands of light, they capture hundreds or even thousands of bands.
A: We have found that NDRE is better for later stage crops and for crops with a larger biomass. This is because the NDVI values max out when the crop reaches a certain growth stage. However, NDVI is probably the most used for early on crops as it reads the top layer of a canopy very accurately.
A: Sunlight sensors are used to calibrate multi-spectral data by measuring the levels of incoming light in the band that the sensor detects.
This allows for a true and accurate reading of the light levels reflected by the ground and vegetation, it means that data is repeatable under a variety of lighting conditions and therefore we can compare the same data captured on different dates.
This is one of the features that makes true multi-spectral sensors such as the Micasense RedEdge and Altum much more suitable for applications where comparison of data is important, like trials and other R&D work.
A: Most standard RGB cameras have a 12 megapixel sensor that will provide 2.5cm/pixel resolution when flying at 80m altitude, sub 1cm resolution is achievable by flying lower, though flight and processing time are significantly increased.
Accuracy of the imagery produced in terms of location is based on the GPS accuracy of the system. The standard system will therefore produce a horizontal accuracy of +/- 1m and a vertical accuracy (for terrain and elevation maps) of +/- 0.5m. This is more than enough for most agri-mapping scenarios.
Where increased accuracy is required, for tasks like margin or tramline routed generation or accurately measuring ground distances, our RTK systems will increase horizontal accuracy to +/- 10cm and vertical to +/- 5cm.
A: For an M200 system we would recommend the AGX710 from Sentera, as it is gimbled for true nadir imagery and comes with a year’s free subscription to their FieldAgent software.
For more advanced R&D and scientific work, the Micasense RedEdge or Altum provide high resolution, sunlight corrected imagery, in multiple, independent bands.
Frequently asked questions
A: Our drone systems are compatible with all DJI software (DJI GO/GO4, DJI GS Pro), as well as many third party apps for flying and mapping with drones, such as DroneDeploy, FieldAgent and Litchi.
A: Yes. All of the data can be exported in “shapefile” format (.shp), which is the most common file format for use with farm management software packages. Prescription files generated can also be imported into variable rate machinery via shapefiles.
A: There are some good apps out there that can help you plan flights with integrated airspace monitoring to help you fly safely. Some will also help you to maintain flight logs (required by the CAA for commercial operations) and even manage multiple drone teams, here’s our recommended list:
Flyte – for flight planning – Contact Us for a free trial and discounts.
Airdata – Flight logging and metrics – Synchronises directly with DJI and DroneDeploy.
NATS Drone Assist App – Very useful tool for checking airspace before you fly. Free.
A: We would recommend Pix4D Fields or Pix4D Mapper for processing multispectral data, Mapper provides additional features such as Thermal data processing and more export options.
A: We have two go-to programs for mapping:
DroneDeploy: Great for mapping as it has a very easy-to-use app and it’s website is clear and concise. Great for RGB but not great for NDRE/NDVI.
Fieldagent: Sentera’s software, Very good for NDRE and NDVI but not as good at stitching RGB unless you have very high overlaps.
Frequently asked questions
A: We run the course in Northumberland and Norfolk.
A: We provide 3 different courses and are planning on introducing new ones soon! The three we currently run are the “Using your farm drone” hands on and online course along with the CAA PFCO Course for commercial users. We also offer bespoke, private training with g=hardware purchases, or for larger corporate groups.
A: No, The CAA Course is a separate course that is needed for commercial operators.
A: Yes we now allow companies to book private training days as long as they have 4 or more people attending.
A: Yes both the online and hands on course can get you BASIS CPD points. 12 for the hands on course and 6 for the online course
A: No, we can lend you one if you need it.
A: The software we use is free of charge for a basic version, however, paid versions are available for greater functionality.
A: You’ll need to bring along a smartphone or tablet to download the appropriate software.
A: We primarily focus on DJI drones due to their expansive capabilities. The course is still available for the theoretical learning aspect.
A: We use a combination of a drone simulator and out on the field ground demonstrations.
A: Yes – we will provide an overview of the applicable drone rules and regulations.
A: No not an exam but there is a small test after each module for the Lantra certificate.
A: The course is predominantly based towards arable farming, however, the skills learnt are transferable.
A: Having some hands-on experience prior to the course will be beneficial, however, it’s possible to learn the processes used in farming.
Frequently asked questions
A: No, spraying with drones isn’t currently legal in the UK but we are working on it.
A: The DJI Agras is the system to look at. It can hold 10kg of chemical and can spray 7-10 acres per hour.
A: We currently have a special CAA permission to operate drone spraying systems. However the CRD have not yet enabled the use of these systems for spraying chemicals – we are currently conducting trials and testing for this.
We are hoping to be commercially spraying with drones by 2020 in the UK.