Drones chart every detail of agricultural fields

Hyperspectral camera systems, mounted on manned aircraft, have offered added value for monitoring agricultural crops, forest or other vegetation for years. Through the COSI-programme, VITO has now developed a version for drones.

Hyperspectral camera images, which can record several spectral bands, are a significant asset when monitoring agricultural crops. Every pixel of the hyperspectral image contains information from both visible and infrared light. As such, many aspects of vegetation can be monitored far more precisely and far sooner than before: the health of plants and their stress level, a lack or surplus of fertilisation, diseases, and so on.

VITO has been conducting flight campaigns for years with sensitive, but bulky hyperspectral cameras attached to the underside of manned camera planes. In comparison, compact drones of the octocopter type are a lot cheaper and more efficient. A drone is more versatile and is able to register plenty of added details from a low height. Within the framework of the Flemish COSI-project, VITO built a compact and light hyperspectral camera, helped by a smart chip and filter developed by imec, the Flemish research centre for nano-electronics.

VITO's role

VITO is currently conducting tests with the COSI drone above a test field for fruit growth in Sint-Truiden. It built the new camera around an imec chip, developed customised software for improved hyperspectral image processing and is working on applications that make use of the hyperspectral images.

Many aspects of vegetation can be monitored far more precisely and far sooner than before: the health of plants and their stress level, a lack or surplus of fertilisation, diseases, and so on ...