The crowd at the demonstration day at the Bundaberg DAF Research Station watching the DJI Matrice 100 drone take flight and follow pre-mapped path.

DRONES are regularly touted as having the potential to be the next useful farm tools but there’s more to them than simply picking up the controls.

While the actual use of drones is fairly simple, knowing the correct aviation regulations and even photography methods involves another level of operation.

The particulars of drone use and the technology available was up for discussion at a demonstration day at the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries at Bundaberg last week.

Full-time drone pilot for Northern AgriServices, Joshua Caccioppola, showed off the DJI Matrice 100 drone which was able to do considerable aerial surveillance and crop data mapping.

But with the heightened use of drones comes increased cautions for users.

If you’re 800m away and something goes wrong, you’re screwed.
– Joshua Caccioppola

He emphasised the fact that despite having preset flight paths and push-button operation, the operator/pilot still needed to be vigilant.

“If you’re 800m away and something goes wrong, you’re screwed,” Mr Caccioppola.

“You have to be in control of it at all times.”

He said new developments continually provided improvements.

“It is getting easier with new programs out now,” he said.

Visual information collected from the drone can then be processed through algorithms to asses and monitor various crop factors such as biomass, moisture content, weed density, insect pressure and even soil condition.

Ground truthing is a big thing with this.
– Renee Liddle

Graduate agronomist and Northern AgriServices’ Renee Liddle, spoke on how the collected information can be extrapolated and used by farmers for better crop or livestock management.

While the information was available she emphasised the need for “ground truthing” as farmers knew their properties better than anyone.

“I don’t think you could use it wholly and solely to identify a problem,” Ms Liddle said.

“Ground truthing is a big thing with this.”

Mr Caccioppola provided a brief in-field demonstration of the DJI Matrice 100 drone and its automation features.