Assistant professor Wenxuan Guo is using drones to aid in optimizing agricultural production.
Unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, are being used in agriculture to help farmers work more efficiently and use fewer inputs. Researchers in Texas Tech University's College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources (CASNR) are working with drones to develop advanced agricultural production practices.
Wenxuan Guo, an assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Science, studies precision agriculture using drones along with other new technologies to conduct his research for optimized agricultural production.
"Based on these technologies, farmers can make a better decision on how to manage their crops, their fields and their farms," Guo said. "So, overall, we can produce more crops with the same amount of water and other resources."
In agriculture, drones often can detect potential problems with a crop using specialized sensors, such as infrared or thermal cameras and high-resolution video.
These tools allow farmers to locate, identify and address production-related issues before they can impact crops or livestock by observing different spectral signatures in the images.
Juan Cantu, a doctoral student in Plant and Soil Science, is working to develop a drone system that can estimate yield. If the algorithm for the yield estimators currently being used by producers could be modified for a drone, yield estimates could be determined more quickly, he said.
"There are unlimited possibilities with drones," Cantu said. "We are coming up with new ideas even now."
Despite the many rules and regulations related to their use, drones in agriculture are becoming much more useful and common. They can help farmers monitor crops and livestock more efficiently and often fix problems before their impacts can easily be seen.
Cantu said drone technologies are close to helping solve many of the problems currently facing agriculture.
"I don't think drones are the answer," Cantu said. "I don't think any one thing is the answer, but I think they will be an important tool for precision agriculture."