How does field surveying work?

Whether you use a fixed wing or a quadcopter to survey your fields, the process of gathering useful data consists of 4 basic steps:

1. Plan Your Flight


Many of the latest agricultural drones come with flight planning software that lets you to draw a box around the field you want to survey (on a Google Earth map or similar), and a flight plan will be created for you automatically. Some even plan the camera shots for you, automatically. You then upload the flight path into your drone and get ready to fly.

2. Fly and Shoot

drone for mapping

With your flight plan loaded and drone armed, it’s time to start flying – and shooting images. Basically, you just send the drone on its way and the system will automatically take images using the onboard camera and sensors as the drone executes its flight path. The drone will use GPS location to trigger each shot. After finishing its run, the drone lands automatically (usually all goes well).

3. Process Images

The most challenging part of the agricultural drone surveying process is translating the hundreds of high-res images you just captured into information you can actually use. But don’t worry, it’s not that hard to do or learn. Most farm drone operators need to process hundreds of visual, thermal and multi-spectral images per flight, to identify changes in crop health over time or to spot anomalies. All of these images need to be stitched together, converted into orthomosaic 2D images, processed and analysed for you to get useful information from the flight. That’s a lot of data processing.
Popular Image Processing Software for Agriculture
Most agriculture drone operators use the following tools to turn aerial images into useful data. All of them use cloud-based processing to take the load off of you:
  • DataMapper
  • DroneDeploy
  • Pix4D

4. Review and Take Action

After you’ve reviewed the health of your crops, you can input the data into one of several farm management systems to improve your overall view of the farm’s health and take action.