What can early season drone imagery really tell us?

Last spring, we flew a field with our DJI Inspire 2 and MicaSense multispectral sensor over a field that was about V4 growth stage. It was pretty early in the season – the field was planted on April 18 and we flew it on May 21. I wasn’t sure how much we would see.

Flying field at V4 on May 12.

The following image in true color (red-green-blue, as your eyes normally view the world) shows individual rows of corn showing up.

Field imagery on May 21, 2017 at V4; zoomed in to see individual rows.

The camera we are using has five wavebands – red, green, blue, red edge, and near-infrared. The red and near-infrared bands were combined into an NDVI (normalized difference vegetative index) image.

The near-infrared band allows us to “see” into a part of the light spectrum that we cannot see with our naked eye. This view can accentuate differences and allow us to see things that are not visible in a true color image. The green stripes are higher vigor and represent the rows of corn. Red areas are lower vigor, or bare soil.

NDVI imagery from May 21, 2017 at V4; zoomed in to see individual rows.

Pretty impressive detail.

You can compare the two images using the slider.

Early season drone imagery can provide an amazingly detailed view of the crop condition!

So how were we able to use this imagery at this early stage?

Several notable patterns showed up. We highlighted these areas and used the imagery to direct our scouting on the ground.

This is what we found:

1. Ground squirrel damage


2. Where the planter was off the strip till row


3. Weed patches


Overall, I was very impressed with the level of detail that could be seen, even at this early crop stage.

Drone imagery, even early in the growing season, can be useful to inform and direct crop scouting efforts, ensuring that you get a complete view of field conditions.

Are you interested in using drone imagery this season to get the whole picture of your field conditions while there is still time to take action? We would love the opportunity to visit with you!

We are a local small business serving southeast Nebraska, northeast Kansas, and northwest Missouri. We have numerous years of boots-on-the-ground agronomy experience. Our goal is to help you get information that can help you make more informed decisions to increase your yields and profitability.

If you would like to visit about using drone imagery this season, drop Laura and Nate an email at laurajoy08@gmail.com or call/text at 402-245-0199 or 402-440-4127. Leave a message if we don’t answer.

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