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Nano and Micro Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs): A New Grand Challenge for Precision Agriculture?

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Gago,  J.
Central Metabolism, Department Willmitzer, Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology, Max Planck Society;

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Fernie,  A. R.
Central Metabolism, Department Willmitzer, Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology, Max Planck Society;

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Gago, J., Estrany, J., Estes, L., Fernie, A. R., Alorda, B., Brotman, Y., et al. (2020). Nano and Micro Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs): A New Grand Challenge for Precision Agriculture? Current Protocols in Plant Biology, 5(1): e20103. doi:10.1002/cppb.20103.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0005-C044-5
Abstract
Abstract By collecting data at spatial and temporal scales that are inaccessible to satellite and field observation, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are revolutionizing a number of scientific and management disciplines. UAVs may be particularly valuable for precision agricultural applications, offering strong potential to improve the efficiency of water, nutrient, and disease management. However, some authors have suggested that the UAV industry has overhyped the potential value of this technology for agriculture, given that it is difficult for non-specialists to operate UAVs as well as to process and interpret the resulting data. Here, we analyze the barriers to applying UAVs for precision agriculture, which range from regulatory issues to technical requirements. We then evaluate how new developments in the nano- and micro-UAV (NAV and MAV, respectively) markets may help to overcome these barriers. Among the possible breakthroughs that we identify is the ability of NAV/MAV platforms to directly quantify plant traits using methods (e.g., object-oriented classification) that require less image calibration and interpretation than spectral index–based approaches. We suggest that this potential, when combined with steady improvements in sensor miniaturization, flight precision, and autonomy as well as cloud-based image processing, will make UAVs a tool with much broader adoption by agricultural managers in the near future. If this wider uptake is realized, then UAVs have real potential to improve agriculture's resource-use efficiency. © 2020 by John Wiley Sons, Inc.