By Sigfredo Fuentes
Figure: Octocopter from the VoF – Chile carrying an infrared thermal camera, visible camera and multispectral camera.
The MSLE with the Department of Mechanical Engineering from The University of Melbourne are developing customised unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the form of multicopters. The main aim of this project is to develop continuous remote monitoring systems to assess spatial and temporal variability of plant growth and water status, combined with a decision-making tool based on processed GIS maps (GIS-DMT). These tools will enable grapegrowers to apply efficient management strategies to maximise genetic cultivar potentials. Currently available methods to assess plant vigour and water status rely on expensive portable or fixed location instrumentation making the assessment of spatial and temporal variability of these parameters within a grapevine field difficult. Spatial variability can be obtained from airborne sensors and satellite imagery, which can be cost prohibitive and also have operational complexity in the information handling and data interpretation. Satellites also have a spatial resolution problem and long revisiting periods (low temporal resolution). Advances in miniaturised remote sensing technology (visual, infrared thermography and multispectral cameras) allow mounting them on UAVs and UTVs to assess plant vigour and water status using visible, multispectral and infrared thermal images. These systems are of high temporal and spatial resolution, which can be combined with GIS-DMT for rapid automated data analysis and reporting. The expected outcome would be management GIS maps of grapevine fields accessible to grapegrowers through a web page and specialised smartphone/tablet PC App. This integrated tool will offer competitive advantages to the Australian wine industry at a reduced cost compared to other available technologies.