Drone camera detects crop health

Tim SlaterThe West Australian

An unmanned aerial vehicle was put through its paces on a farm near Esperance last week to demonstrate its potential for agriculture.

The drone demonstration was provided by Think Spatial consultants, which specialises in spatial information systems.

Company director Lynden McGregor said the drone had a range of applications, including monitoring the health of crops.

It has also been used locally to inspect waterlogged paddocks to get a clearer idea of damage.

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Mr McGregor said there were plans to acquire an infrared camera, using heat to detect crop health. The drone is powered by a battery and is only allowed to fly to a maximum height of 120m.

It has a range of 16sqkm and takes photographs with a modified standard digital camera.

The photos are stitched together using sophisticated computer software and linked with GPS co-ordinates to provide an accurate picture of the land below.

The fixed-wing aircraft is equipped with a microcomputer, GPS tracker, compass, camera and altimeter. The drone was controlled by pilot Caitlin Jackson, who works for Think Spatial.

Ms Jackson has had to obtain a pilot operator's certificate from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority which included completion of the theory component of a private pilot's licence and radio operator and controller certificates.

Ms Jackson pre-programs the flight path, with the drone flying autonomously for up to 45 minutes.

Think Spatial is based in Esperance, providing information for the transport access corridor.

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