Satellite and Drone Imaging for Precision Ag: Airbus DS, Agribotix, and Weed Management in South Texas

We’re lucky to be able to work with all kinds of folks interested in drones and precision agriculture, from Airbus DS, a large corporation operating a fleet of satellites with amazing imaging capabilities for agriculture, to growers in South Texas, applying drone imaging to improve their farming operation.

Satellite imagery and aerial imagery from drones is naturally complimentary, providing two unique perspectives over the farm. 

Imagery from the Airbus DS constellation of Earth observation satellites provides an incredible ability to monitor agriculture across scales, from continental to local.  Airbus satellites like SPOT 6 & 7 provide a large-scale and high-resolution capability, covering a 37 mile-wide (60 km) swath of the Earth’s surface with each pass. Utilizing Pleiades-1A and Pleiades-1B Airbus also provides very-high-resolution optical data products with a daily revisit capability for any point on Earth.  Here’s a beautiful image acquired by Pleiades 1A over Anderson Farms, CO in the fall of ’14.

Anderson Farm CO

Relative to satellites, imagery collected from Agribotix agricultural drones is hyper-local and field-specific, providing leaf-level spatial resolution, with the flexibility to be deployed as-needed and on-demand.  A great example of the power of drone imaging for agriculture comes from a grower in South Texas, Cody Scogin, showing early-season weed detection in a field prepared for cotton planting.  Cody is supporting his daughter, Bailey Scogin, on her multi-year high school FFA Agriscience research project where she’s researching the use of optical sensing for herbicide-resistant weed monitoring and management.  Last year, her state-winning experiment included the study of weed growth and maturation through NDVI monitoring using AgLeader’s OptRx sensors.  This year she’s extending her research to include aerial imagery from a UAV.   In one of her earliest flights, she collected high-resolution near-infrared images that allowed straightforward mapping of very small (less than a few inches in diameter), early-emergent weeds in the field (see image below).  This information has great utility for weed management: knowing the locations of weeds in the field enables new treatment options for herbicide-resistant weeds like precision application of chemicals, or mechanical treatments. 

Many thanks to both Airbus DS, and Cody and Bailey for collaborating with Agribotix on next-generation technologies for precision agriculture!

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