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My name is Brady Koehler I work with the USDA-ARS in Fargo, ND. I am a lead technician for a sunflower drought stress study. The study will take place over the next 2 years. We have small plots that are about 5 acres and want to get as much information on a plant by plant basis if possible. I am most curious about image processing software that can help me get everything below. I have looked at a few places but there are so many out there. What would you recommend? I also would be curious to which drones you like most. I am currently looking at the DJI Inspire or 3DR Solo combined with an infrared camera, thermo camera, and rgb camera which we can mount and remove. Below is a list of everything we want the drone to do: 

·       Plant height and plant count (RGB camera)

·       Maturity and flower date

·       Rogue plants 

·       Hybrid phenology

·       Evaluate leaf and canopy traits 

·       Canopy height

·       Canopy temperature to determine CWSI

·       Measurement of canopy light reflectance for determination of NDVI and CWSI. 

·       Data geo-referencing

·       Temperature 

·       Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) 

·       Crop Water Stress Index (CWSI)

·       Leaf Area Index (LAI)



Edited by Brady
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To Hi Brady,



So great to hear that the USDA is doing this type of research! I'm sure the community here will be able to answer most of these questions in the aggregate, you may want to head over to the agriculture section. I'm not sure how much detail is there so far. In terms of drones the inspire will get you there for the x5 and nir or flir, and I'm pretty sure RGB as well, but you may also want to look into the matrix series as you may be able to set up a rig with multiple cameras all at  once on it, cutting down on the number of passes needed for data collection. You may also be better served with fixed wings if you need longer flight times. How many 5 acre fields will you be running? 

As i am by no means the leading world expert on advanced imaging you would be well served by talking with the fellas over  @Lewis@IcarusAerialsl. I have used some 3d photogrammetry software that may do most (NDVI etc) of what you need. I use Agisoft photoscan,  and there is also pix4d. Another thing to consider is where you'll process the data in the cloud or on local machines.

Edited by RemotelyPossible
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Hi Brady, CC'ing @Lewis@IcarusAerials and @Trevor - Icarus to see if they have any specific insights.

Based on what I learned taking their course, I imagine they'd recommend the Inspire if you're choosing between the two, but each system has its pros and cons.

I'd give both the teams at Drone Deploy and Pix4D a call to chat through the capabilities of each of their platforms. I'd also take a look at a system like Agrobotix to familiarize yourself with another solution.

Hope that helps!

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Hi Brady, here are some additional comments from @Lewis@IcarusAerials. Hope these are helpful:

If he is just starting to get into things, and knows nothing about Pix4D, go with Drone Deploy.

If it is a big project, he is probably going to want to do ground control points, and the monthly fee to do that with Drone Deploy is $499 I believe.

I’d only recommend going with Pix4D if he has experience with the software, or the time to learn how to do it.

I don’t know for sure, but I think companies like DD or MME are just running Pix4D or Photoscan on their end, they’ve just streamlined the process.

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