Drone winners take crop surveillance to the skies

Winners of a drone competition to help promote the national GrowNotes™ Alert notification and surveillance system had their first flying lesson in Victoria.

GrowNotes™ Alert is a co-investment between the Grains Research & Development Corporation (GRDC) and Agriculture Victoria.

Drone competition winners Adam Dellwo, Tim McLelland, Matt Bissett and Sarah Ellis watch on as trainer David Skinner takes them through the finer points of flying near Birchip. Image supplied

Tim McLelland, Adam Dellwo, Matt Bissett and Sarah Ellis took part in a day-long workshop with Bask Aerospace Managing Director David Skinner, whose company custom built the drones for use as a tool to monitor crops.

Participants had to subscribe to GrowNotes™ Alert and submit an image of a crop pest, disease or weed to be eligible to go into the draw.

Drone winner and agronomist Sarah Ellis said the drone would bring a greater rigour to her crop monitoring.

“I think the best use of it will be if you want to monitor something over time or to just be meticulous about your monitoring pattern,” Dr Ellis said.

She said surveillance work would be quicker and provide real time aerial imaging.

“Last season, the month of September 2016 was one of the wettest on record at Warracknabeal. This would’ve been really handy in those paddocks that were too boggy to drive in, just to have a look.”

Dr Ellis said getting alerts from South Australia helped her stay ahead of potential biosecurity threats to the Wimmera Mallee.

“GrowNotes™ Alert is a precursor to what’s coming to the Wimmera Mallee area, but it also gives you access to a network of specialist people that can identify ‘little critters’ or a disease I’m not sure about,” she said.

Bask Aerospace Managing Director David Skinner said the use of drones for crop imaging and analysis was increasing and was becoming an exciting space in which to work.

“I think within the next five to ten years it’ll be equivalent to having a tractor. It will be something that you have to have on farm,” Mr Skinner said.

He said agronomists and agronomy services were currently showing the most interest in the technology and his company would continue to provide training and support to all the winners.

Grains Industry Market Access Forum (GIMAF) and Agriculture Victoria, together with support from Grain Producers Australia, Plant Health Australia and the Grains Farm Biosecurity Program, partnered up to run the competition as a surveillance pilot project.

Source: Agriculture Victoria