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Precision Agriculture Informed with Drone Lidar

Image of Precision Agriculture Applied to Corn Maze

Precision Agriculture Applied to Corn Maze

The RedTail LiDAR Systems’ RTL-400, designed specifically for use on small drones, is a cost-effective tool that provides high-resolution, accurately geolocated images needed to make informed business decisions. Precision agriculture is one area where it is well suited.

As the RedTail LiDAR Systems team prepared to launch the RTL-400, they looked for unique opportunities to demonstrate the product’s capabilities across a broad range of industries. Precision agriculture was identified as an important application. The worldwide need for food requires ever-increasing levels of production, while simultaneously meeting that demand in an environmentally friendly and sustainable manner.

Precision agriculture is a farming management concept based on observing, measuring and responding to inter and intra-field variability. In recent years, the agriculture industry has increasingly adopted drone-based LiDAR technology to support precision agriculture methods, allowing them to make more informed crop and livestock management decisions; one example is the selective application of fertilizers to achieve even yield throughout a field.

To demonstrate the RTL-400’s capability in the area of precision agriculture, RedTail staff researched various agricultural flight options and hit on an idea – what better way to demonstrate the high-resolution, high-accuracy system than in one of the toughest challenges that could be found – a corn maze. Why fly a corn maze? It represents precision agriculture at its finest with a perfectly planted, monitored, and managed cornfield.

The corn maze selected to map was located in New Springfield, Ohio. The Maze Craze corn maze was ranked one of the 10 Best by USA Today. Carved out of 21 acres of corn and including 9 miles of winding trails, the 2019 life-size maze is celebrating the 80th anniversary of the classic film The Wizard of Oz. Complete with Dorothy, Toto, the Tin Man, Scarecrow, Lion and the Wicked Witch, the maze was designed to provide hours of fun for young and old.

Developed with technology licensed from the Army Research Laboratory (ARL), the RTL-400 was designed specifically for use on small drones flying at altitudes of up to 400 ft. The RTL-400 incorporates an innovative microelectromechanical system (MEMS) mirror-based laser scanner that rapidly and evenly distributes laser pulses to the ground, moving side-to-side 400 times each second. This rapid line scan rate, coupled with a laser pulse rate of up to 400,000 pulses per second, yields point clouds that are unprecedented in resolution and density.

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