This summer researchers from technology firm QinetiQ and from Aberystwyth University flew an autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) over fields in England and Wales to map the nitrogen levels in soil, to determine whether fertiliser applications were needed.
The data collected was then used to create a (NDVI) map, which tells you the difference between ‘green crops’ that are photosynthesising and bare ground. Where there is bare ground, more fertilizer may be needed.
The ecological impact of this technique is potentially huge. Imagine only watering crops that need to be watered (and only when required) instead of flooding the entire field. Imagine as well spraying just those diseased plants with herbicides (and only when there is an outbreak) instead of suffocating acres and acres of fields with poison all the time.
Imagine tractors using GPS and an upload of this data into an onboard machine that automatically regulates the application of fertilizer and pesticides—just the right amount and exactly where the chemicals are needed…