5 Ways To Use Multispectral Imagery in Agriculture

Last updated on

October 27, 2021


How To Use Multispectral Imagery in Agriculture

The use of new technologies in agriculture is playing a key role in improving the efficiency of large farming operations and multispectral technology is no exception. The data captured by drone-based multispectral sensors can make operations more efficient by providing information that allows for better use of resources and more localized applications. The specifics on how multispectral imagery improves efficiency are detailed in this blog.

We have recently started sourcing drone solutions for agriculture and forestry – if you want to find out more, take a look here.

Coptrz are proud to be the UK’s only premium MicaSense reseller. MicaSense are at the forefront of multispectral sensor development and are pushing the boundaries on agricultural mapping and data analysis. You can browse our range of MicaSense solutions here.

The goal of multispectral imagery

The primary goal of multispectral imaging in agriculture is to detect subtle variation in plant health before visible symptoms appear. For instance, a grower could spot a small reduction in a plant’s chlorophyll content before the leaves start to turn yellow.

Such early detection is possible because the amount of sunlight plants reflect in different wavelengths vary as their health changes. Multispectral sensors then capture and record this variation. However, some sensors capture more precise data than others. If a sensor measures too broad a region of the light spectrum, any subtle variation will be lost.

Here are the top 5 reasons why you should be using multispectral imagery: 

1. Insurance 

Agriculture can have major risks associated, such as drought, natural disasters, and pests. Farmers are heavily dependent on nature and weather conditions. For example, a small hail storm can destroy a part of a field and significantly impact yield. Agricultural insurance helps farmers protect their crops and reduce the financial impact derived from a natural disaster. Drone-based multispectral imagery expedites insurance claim processes by providing accurate information, allowing insurance agents to identify and determine the extent of the damage and correlate the insurance area with the damaged area.

2. Disease Detection 

Multispectral sensors can highlight small changes in the health of crops. This is because multispectral imagery captures a critical part of the light spectrum for studying plants (712–722 nm), called the red edge band. It is in this section of the spectrum that the first signs of stress start to show. Sometimes this stress is related to disease. Using analytics generated with the red edge band, growers can identify, monitor and track disease-related stress. This is how multispectral sensors can help growers catch disease sooner and act faster to stop the spread.

When used in vegetation indexes like NDRE or the MicaSense Chlorophyll Map, the red edge band is highly effective in highlighting disease earlier. Oftentimes, if disease is prevalent in a crop, it can be seen in red edge based indices before it becomes visible in NDVI. This early detection helps users catch disease sooner and act faster to stop the spread.

The MicaSense RedEdge-MX is an advanced multispectral camera specially designed for small unmanned aircraft systems. It provides accurate multiband data for agricultural remote sensing. RedEdge-MX is powered by MicaSense, a team of data collection leaders with decades of expertise in a variety of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) applications. MicaSense is redefining remote sensing technology and pioneering a new way to harvest information.

With RedEdge-M, you can fly a 100-acre field (at 400 ft AGL, 70% overlap) in only 27 minutes. And because you have access to the raw data collected by RedEdge-M, you can choose between various processing and analysis platforms, or process and analyze the data yourself.

3. Irrigation and Water Management 

Water is an important yet scarce resource in agriculture. In regions where the levels of precipitation are too low to guarantee the health of crops, supplementary irrigation is utilized to ensure that an entire field receives the necessary water for production. The combination of multispectral, high-resolution RGB, and thermal imagery can provide powerful insights into water management. For example, colour composites using the NIR band (like CIR) can help users identify overly damp areas in an intuitive way. In addition, areas that are benefiting from excess irrigation (due to leaks, pooling etc) will be highlighted.

4. Plant Counting 

When it comes to making replant decisions, time is the biggest challenge. If corn or soy is planted too late in the spring, they may not mature before the first fall frost, resulting in lost yield potential. But choosing not to replant has its own risks. Having even a couple seeds per row that did not emerge can result in thousands of plants per acre that won’t grow to produce a healthy yield.

Multispectral sensors capture information that allows for more than just plant classification. This imagery can also feed algorithms information for plant detection and counting, saving farmers hours and making yield predictions more accurate.

While drones cannot predict when the first frost will arrive, they can provide more precise plant count and crop health analytics. Drone collect and turn precise information quickly enough to aide in the replant decision. Ultimately, drones provide farmers the information they need to maximize yield potential. Next, we’ll discuss how it works.

5. Cost Reduction – Reducing Labour Costs

Walking the fields will always be a part of farming, but getting out and walking large extensions costs an arm and a leg. Through our technology it is possible to know where to walk and what to look for, saving you a lot of time. With our year-over-year tracking, we can also help you predict how many hands you’ll need, based on your expected crop health and yield, so we can save you money too.

Drones can help farmers save money on labour costs and collect more precise data. A few of the common uses for drones in agriculture can help reduce the amount of resources needed to grow crops, while also reducing the amount of environmental waste from the growing process. When farmers use drones to analyse fields, they can determine which parts of the field need more water, less water or more fertilizer.

Start Capturing Multispectral Imagery Today 

In agriculture, broadband sensors, such as converted cameras, work well for the big picture, allowing for the generation of RGB maps and generic indices like NDVI. However, the information provided by these cameras is limited and does not allow further analysis of the field over time.

A narrow band camera, on the other hand, provides more detailed and accurate information by capturing precise measurements of specific wavelengths, which allows for early detection of health issues. This gives farmers more tools and information to enable them to make better management decisions.

As the only premium reseller of MicaSense in the UK, Coptrz are proud to bring you a wide range of MicaSense solutions. Allowing you to get the right tools into your hands so you can make the right call at the right time, with clear, actionable information to guide your decisions.

Contact us today and find the right solution for your business.

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