Solar potential determination using drones and AI
Agriculture influences the lives of many people and is one of the most important economic factors in Austria. In Austria, for example, 7.7 billion euros were generated by agricultural enterprises in 2020 (STATISTIK AUSTRIA, 2021). Viticulture is particularly noteworthy as it has a significant impact on the food, beverage and media industries. However, one problem in viticulture is the collection of data from vineyards, for example for quality analysis, as this is nowadays mostly based on manual direct measurement methods, which are time and resource consuming. Because of this, technical aids are increasingly being used to increase efficiency and support farmers.
In particular, the use of drones in agriculture could emerge as a promising solution. This is due, among other things, to the many possible uses of drones in viticulture. For example, they can be used to analyse seasonal plant growth, analyse the quality of the harvest or detect damage to the plant caused by pests or weather.
Currently, however, drones are rarely used in Austrian agriculture, mostly in cooperation between a scientific institute and a farmer or agribusiness as part of an individual project. As a result, many winegrowers often do not have access to professional drone deployments to monitor or analyse their vineyards and the technical knowledge to store, analyse and extract information from the data is usually not available.
Our task is to close precisely this gap. With our individual and modular deployment package "AXB all-in-one" in which hardware, software, personnel, analysis and sensor technology can be flexibly adapted, we position drone deployment as a "one-stop shop" and thus offer an all-round package as a drone service.
With Weinbau-Projekt we position ourselves in the field of digital agriculture and offer customers the possibility of drone use in agriculture. The aim of this project is to develop and define a drone service in the area of digital agriculture, specifically for viticulture, which customers will be able to use in future for professional drone operations on their agricultural land and to analyse and support agricultural activities. In this project year, the focus is on conducting and implementing a pilot project in the area of viticulture to plan and structure a drone service for use in wineries and the first automatic drone flights over vineyards
Benefits for the farmer
Low operating costs and easy handling of the device. These advantages come into play when comparing the costs of conventional helicopters, which are around 65 euros per minute of flight. Furthermore, the automatic flight sequence enables autonomous data collection, with the drone following a planned flight route with GPS coordinates. This means that the entire operation site can be covered easily and quickly.
However, the cost reduction does not only result from the flight, but also from the fast processing and information acquisition of the data. By analysing and controlling cultivation and management methods with the help of drone data, it is possible, for example, to determine exactly which plants have been fertilised too little or need more water and then water or fertilise them in a targeted manner.
On the one hand, only a short preparation time is required for the drone flight, for example to check the equipment and the weather. For another, the drones used can take off and land vertically at almost any location, thus reducing the time needed to select a suitable launch site. Drones can also be used in cloudy weather. The flexible use of drones leads to a faster survey of the study area and collection of data than is possible with manual or direct measurement methods using other technical tools. And last but not least, AI-based automated analysis methods can be used to quickly analyse and extract information from large data sets.
The ease of use of drones combined with a wide range of sensors and hardware enables a broad spectrum of applications in viticulture. These range from monitoring management practices, investigating and improving vineyard structure, studying plant health and growth over the course of a season, assisting in the detection of pest or weather damage, analysing and predicting harvests, to the ability to capture images of objects from different angles to reconstruct and analyse 3D digital models of buildings or plants.
Because drones are electronically powered by rechargeable batteries, no fossil fuels are required for their use, making drone operation CO2-neutral. In addition, using drones means fewer trips with tractors or other heavy equipment. This significantly reduces fuel consumption and exhaust emissions.
Data clarity and reliability
Due to the flexibility of deployment, drones can easily be used for periodic data collection. Among other things, this offers the possibility of a cross-seasonal comparison of viticulture-relevant data such as the occurrence and duration of phenological stages of the vines.
This includes high-quality aerial photography in different multispectral ranges, which even allows the observation of objects such as plants in the single-digit or sub-centimetre range. This allows the targeted analysis of specific plant, meteorological or soil-relevant factors such as plant growth, temperature, precipitation amounts or nitrogen content in the soil. Based on the information obtained, maps can be created that present the measurement data graphically and clearly.