Mapping a Corn Field

Corn field arial map from UAV
300 acres of new corn, shown at 5% size of the actual map.

The image shows a 300 acre field of new corn, mapped from my UAV. The image is shown on the blog here at 5% size (click to see) of the actual output. The actual map shows the field at about 4cm/pixel resolution, giving a greatly detailed view to augment the overview perspective.

The morning of the flight had a lot of thermal activity, so the ground shows some brightness variation from the clouds. But the ground features themselves come through nicely, showing bands of moisture along some contour lines. With the ground resolution, the individual corn plants, about a foot tall at this time, with small leaves, are right at the pixel size and not visible individually yet.

Getting this map right took a few trials and testing sessions, tuning the flight controller to handle the drone airframe predictably, getting the camera to take pictures reliably and at good quality. But now we have a reliable, safe system. One particular step that brought a great improvement in flight characteristics and energy efficiency was the addition of the digital airspeed sensor to the flight controller.

Mapping software: Airphoto SE, Microsoft ICE. Airframe: RMRC Penguin. Flight Controller: 3DR Pixhawk, with Telemetry. Camera: Canon Powershot S100 with CHDK firmware. Ground station: Mission Planner on Windows 8 on a Macbook Pro. Radio: EZUHF long range system on Spektrum DX8 TX. Battery used was a 4100mAh 3S pack. Total flying time, at 120m, was about 21 minutes. I did two separate flights on separate battery packs, but a single pack could have handled the entire mission as a single flight.

The flights involved in this operation were performed following the AMA guidelines.

Aerial Map Detail at 100%
Pilot relaxing on the ground, shown at full resolution.
Launching the UAV
Ground Station
Ground station. Partial flight path (yellow) and geofence (pink) are visible on the screen.

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