The agricultural industry is struggling with the lack of standards, particularly for data imagery gathering from remote sensing (RS) devices on aerial vehicles, including aircraft, unmanned aircraft vehicles (UAV), and satellites. The Agricultural Aerial Remote Sensing Standards Council (AgRS Council) is a non-profit standards-setting organization designed to address the needs of end-users, product and service developers, and researchers for standards to allow for scientific based analysis related to agriculture.
The use of data imagery gathered by remote sensing (RS) has been one of the mainstays of modern agronomic sciences. Data imagery is used for descriptive analytics such as crop identification and yield forecasting. It can also be used to drive prescriptive analytics, which together with the advanced capabilities of the latest farm equipment can lead to dramatic increases in efficiency (i.e., higher crop yields at lower costs). Until recently, RS data were gathered by satellites, manned aircraft, and ground-based sensors. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or “drones”) provide low-altitude views and give new perspectives, which, when compared with satellite imagery, offer significantly higher spatial resolutions. Because the imagery captured from a drone can be taken from below cloud cover, drones are less likely to be visually obstructed and therefore offer better overall access to crop imaging. For data of comparable quality, drone-based crop imaging is generally cheaper than those captured from manned aircraft, which can run as much as $1,000 an hour.
According to a study recently released by Goldman Sachs, “Like the internet and GPS before them, drones are evolving beyond their military origin to become powerful business tools. They’ve already made the leap to the consumer market, and now they’re being put to work in commercial and civil government applications from firefighting to farming. That’s creating a market opportunity that’s too large to ignore. “Between now and 2020, [Goldman Sachs forecasts] a $100 billion market opportunity for drones—helped by growing demand from the commercial and civil government sectors.”
The growing use of UAVs, coupled with the emergence of cloud computing, is driving a wave of new data products and services, which support both descriptive and prescriptive analytics for agriculture. The novelty of the technology and the rapid pace of these advancements have created confusion in the marketplace, thus putting a great burden on agronomists, manufacturers, researchers, and other analysts to understand the quality of the data being presented. These stakeholders, who specialize in the application of RS data, are increasingly forced to become experts in the arcana of data acquisition and processing. Agricultural researchers are finding that the data generated by today’s UAV, manned aircraft, and satellite RS providers are inconsistent, unreliable, and not scalable, resulting in the inability to generate sufficiently accurate and detailed conclusions.
AgRS Council will design and promote a framework that will reduce agricultural stakeholders’ uncertainty about where to invest in RS technologies, as well as set reasonable expectations regarding the return on these investments. In other words, while it seems obvious much value can be gained for agriculture from aerial RS technology, success will follow only if we can advance our ability, as an industry, to bring high-quality, standardized scientific data to agricultural RS operations. The business use cases for user of the RS product (i.e., the nature of the problem to be solved) will dictate the type of data and analytics required to develop solutions. In turn, this should dictate the nature and scope of the activities to generate specifications for aerial RS products.
More information on AgRSCouncil