Multispectral cameras and drones. Two innovative pieces of technology that, when combined, are revolutionising the farming & agricultural industry.
Multispectral imaging camera sensors on agricultural drones allow farmers to manage crops, soil, fertilising and irrigation more effectively. As a result, they’ve become essential tools modern farmers are taking advantage of, to provide their operations with a competitive edge.
A multispectral camera is a camera that can capture various wavelengths of light on what’s known as the ‘electromagnetic spectrum’. That spectrum contains all the wavelengths of light which exist.
Humans can’t see every wavelength of light on that spectrum. For example, our eyes can only detect light between 400nm – 700nm, known as visible light. It’s why we can’t see things like X-rays, U.V light or infrared.
And while our limited light detection abilities aren’t a problem for our daily activities, it does mean that we miss out on the valuable information different wavelengths of light can give us.
That’s where multispectral cameras come in. Multispectral cameras contain multiple filters sensitive to light wavelengths all across the electromagnetic spectrum. They capture these in an image and create geographically accurate mosaics, with various layers for each wavelength. Capturing a wide array of information beyond the naked eye.
Drones and multispectral cameras
On their own, multispectral cameras are a fantastic piece of tech. But their combination with drones has brought their advantages into the agricultural industry.
Multispectral cameras can be attached to drones as a payload, and some drones, such as the DJI P4 Multispectral, have multispectral cameras built in. This allows you to utilise their incredible imaging capabilities over large distances and areas of land.
By taking an aerial imaging survey, farmers can access a wealth of valuable information they can use to improve the efficiency of their agricultural operations.
What are the benefits of using multispectral camera drones?
There are many ways drones can be used in agriculture, but there are a few specific benefits of combining them with multispectral cameras.
Perhaps the clearest example of this is the game-changing advancements that have been made in monitoring & assessing crop health. Whilst our eyes might not be able to see it, healthy and unhealthy plants reflect different wavelengths of light.
When a drone maps a large land area, it picks all this information up with the multispectral camera. Plant health algorithms such as NDVI and VARI capture the proportions of light across different bands.
This produces a field map indicating which crops are healthy and which are suffering (based on the colour they show up as).
The benefits of this are broad:
- Refining fertilisation – by detecting which crops have nutrient deficiency symptoms, fertiliser can be applied to them directly to reduce wastage.
- Optimising pesticide input – illnesses can be treated effectively through early detection of biotic stress. This reduces wastage and also prevents diseases from spreading through the batch of crops.
- Controlling crop irrigation – by identifying areas of water stress, moisture levels can be managed effectively.
- Estimating crop yield – by processing & exploiting ergonomic indices, crop yield estimates can be made.
What are the best multispectral cameras for drones?
We’ve taken a detailed look at the best multispectral cameras for drones here. That article will give you a great understanding of which multispectral option is best given your needs and budget.
But, to give you a quick summary, our recommendations are:
- DJI P4 Multispectral
- Parrot Sequoia
- YuSense MS 600 Pro
- MicaSense RedEdge MX
- Senter 6X Multispectral Sensor
what is the difference between multispectral and hyperspectral cameras?
The difference between multispectral and hyperspectral cameras is the number of spectral bands and how narrow the bands they pick up are.
Multispectral cameras usually detect between three to ten bands, each with a descriptive title such as red, green, blue, near-infrared, and short-wave infrared.
Hyperspectral cameras pick up much narrower bands (between 10nm-20nm). As a result, hyperspectral images can consist of hundreds or thousands of bands. Each of these bands is usually unnamed.
Drones and multispectral cameras are revolutionising the agricultural industry. Now that you’ve got some basic knowledge about the benefits they provide, it’s time to find out how you can integrate them into your operations.