Drones will harvest big data!

I am so fascinated about drones and just love the dynamics of these small unmanned aerial vehicles (sUAV) especially the small ones like the Phantom that is capable of carryout 3D mapping, to forensics inspections and precision agriculture. For this week’s reflection, for the past week and a half I’ve been on an online safari to understand the impact of this innovative technology on business. What follows in my discussion is what I think will be the largest impact that drones will bring.

DRONELIFESTYLE,. (2016). dji-phantom-2-vision-plus-2-300×203. Retrieved from http://dronelifestyle.com/dji-phantom-review-2014/


Firstly before I continue it must be understood that when we look at the big picture you will find that drone hardware is already a commodity and question that comes from this is how much one is willing to spend on a drone. Secondly, even though the interaction between user and drone is meditated by software this is also fast becoming commoditized which leaves us with one question where is the greater value in all this?

The greater value in all this is in the data that is captured. Since small drones have the capability of flying at very low altitude the capture good precision images they are excellent data capture vehicles. Currently, it is very economical to fly a cheap drone to cover a large area of land than to do so with a vehicle and a team of surveyors. We must be also mindful that the process of digital photography/or video is a complex process that involves converting visual light to binary numeric representation as a two dimensional image. Now in this day and age where cameras become more resolute, the amount of images captured increases and so does the potential value of this images such as those produced from a high value satellite. However, the same can be produced today with a consumer camera mounted on with an off the shelf software on a laptop. The twist to it is that, the software can build textured 3D representations from still images. And when it’s an infrared camera being used, the images produced are even more valuable because not only is difference in heat produced but also the opportunity of measuring those differences.

So, say if we apply this to agriculture, especially in the big Sugar Cane farms in Queensland imagine the amount of data that will come from it. Already predictions from Kansas State University state high spending on UVS in agriculture with the industry to be worth around a staggering US$100 billion by 2025. Currently, applications of drones in  agriculture being developed are in the areas of data collection in plant health, pests monitoring etc. Field images captured from drones by far are much more accurate than satellites or planes. Since drones are agile and can be used anytime to produce results, farmers can deploy them at any time and numerously to identify anomalies. Such valuable information gathered will certainly improve productivity.

However, having access to this technology doesn’t necessarily make any farmer an image specialist. Using the drone to collect images is only the tip of the ice berg to the data collecting process. Images need to undergo certain procedures before they can be used. For precision agriculture data quality is crucial in getting value out of the images. Cloud based application like the PrecisionMapper assist in this area by enable users to upload there images and have it stored, processed and shared in a secure and legitimate environment.

Wentzlaff, A. (2015). Big Data Lab. Retrieved from http://blog.onapproach.com/topic/big-dataanalytics

Overtime, we will see this large scale collection of data will enable service providers to process exceptional levels of detail data that can aid farmers immensely in their crop yielding. This is exactly what the owners of PrecisionMapping are aiming for in developing their model to bring out in the near future. What can be predicted from this is that drones will serve as stimulate for creating cloud based service providers who will be competing based on speed and prominence of their visions. This will see drones harvesting big data and from this will come the rise of cloud base computing.

8 thoughts on “Drones will harvest big data!”

  1. Hi Gerard
    Thanks for this great article. I’ve been looking at the work of Dr Karen Joyce (JCU) who has been researching climate change and its effect on the Great Barrier Reef. You may be interested in her work with remote sensing, which has been greatly enhanced using drones to measure the water temperature and its effect on the Reef.

  2. Thanks Helen for the link. I do remember watching Dr.Karen Joyce on the evening News with her research. However, it never dawned to me that this was a great example of how technology is used to extend survey . I will certainly use the link to learn more about how drones are used in remote sensing.

  3. Hi Gerard, nice post! I found it really interesting and informative to read what you had written about the use of drone technology in agriculture. It’s something that I never knew about, so thanks! It will be cool to see how drone usage will expand in the industry and what implications that has for the set of skills needed to be a farmer. There may be more of a need for farmers to develop more technical skills and knowledge to assist with their usage of drones, but then again it seems like there is a market for companies like PrecisionMapping to process the data for them.

    1. Thanks Nura, it is very interesting.If you’d like to know more you can look at what the John Deere Company is doing. The John Deere Company have realized the potential in the area of drones and big data and are offering Sentera Drone Services as a partnership service to its customers. Sentara is a global provider for software, sensors & drones to the agricultural industry.So the aim of this is that by the 2016 harvest season ,John Deere will be using their customer network to have them(customers/farmers) access Sentera’s solutions to enable users to capture precise multispectral imagery, analyze crop health data at the field’s edge, and share data. They are hoping this will provide flexible product combinations ensure every farmer, regardless of farm size, regardless of budget, can design and implement a robust end-to-end crop health management program unique to their operation.

  4. Really brilliant sharing of big data associated with drones, your reflection absolutely enlighten my mind. I came from business analysis and business intelligence background, data sharing and data transformation is the huge aspect we going to invest in, we have had clients from different industries except agricultural, thanks for broaden my knowledge in this way, I certainly will share with my colleagues and managers what I have read!

  5. Hi Gerard,

    This is very interesting article tying in drones and big data. Agree with the drone usage is expanding in the civilian world, where it used to be exclusive for aviation and military in the past. Currently drones have been entering the freight industry as well Auspost and google to some extend experimenting delivering packages to remote areas with drones which then leads to collecting big data collection on users, type of package, location, peak time, size etc.

    Big data comes with its own challenges and serious governance issue that yet to catch-up though.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *