Drones looking for switched-on croppers

Bold plan for cropping drones


Cropping
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AN Echuca-Moama commercial pilot believes his fleet of drones could be the next big thing in boosting cropping performance.

COMMERCIAL pilot and drone specialist Mark Bollen is fine tuning cutting-edge aerial technology that will enable farmers to maximise their own big-ticket on-farm machinery.

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But he needs the help of those farmers to demonstrate what he believes they can achieve together.

Mr Bollen said agronomists and farmers will find near infrared reflectance mapping of crops reveals plant stress – the most accurate determination of where fertilisers are needed or irrigation requires adjustment.

He said using aerial surveys will build “an incredibly detailed” map of any area and turn it into a 3D model on which to base farming strategies.

“Drone technologies have come with a rush and many industries, including agriculture, have a lot of catching up to do,” Mr Bollen said.

“Farmers have embraced so many changes in recent years, they have huge investments in cropping machinery and the implementation of GPS technology but in many ways that is just a small first step.

“One that has enabled farmers to do away with overlapping, and deliver inputs with more effectiveness.

“But I can demonstrate by harnessing mapping technology of this accuracy in tandem with their on-ground innovation they will be able to increase outputs and cut costs.”

Using his three sizes of DJI Phantom drones – with a fourth on the way – Mr Bollen has already completed projects of jaw-dropping dimensions.

Including delivering a micro-detailed map of a 40 square kilometre zone as part of the Barham flood project in partnership with Murray River Council in NSW.

Drones currently have a ceiling of 120m and must fly at least 30m above the ground to avoid, as Mark puts it, unexpected haircuts.

“I have a pretty good understanding of what farmers need to take their enterprises to the next level, and have been playing with getting this service right for some time,” Mr Bollen added.

“What I really need now are farmers, preferably with a variety of conditions, to work through field trials with me to see how far we can really take this.

“There is no doubt in my mind drones, and the amazing performance of things such as thermal imaging using infrared, have capacities the wider farming industry is yet to totally grasp.

“But working with farmers to help each other squeeze every little bit out of every bit of intelligent technology we both have will be good for us all.

“Once I have produced the map it can be downloaded into the farmer’s computer system to steer the entire rotation, from sowing to harvest.”

Farmers interested in discussing the opportunity of working with Mr Bollen can contact him on 0403 490 548 or email mark@aerialimagesurveys.com.

Mark Bollen with one of his drones which carries infra-red thermal imaging - he sees it as cropping's next big thing and is looking for grain farmers to partner with him during his research phase.
Photo: LUKE HEMER

Mark Bollen with one of his drones which carries infra-red thermal imaging - he sees it as cropping's next big thing and is looking for grain farmers to partner with him during his research phase. Photo: LUKE HEMER

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