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B.K. Handique, A. Q. Khan, M. Prashnani, C. Goswami, C. Gupta & P.L .N. Raju

North Eastern Space Applications Centre

Department of Space, Government of India, Umiam-793103 Meghalaya India

Keywords: UAV, parrot sequoia multispectral sensor, crop condition assessment, Vegetation


Use of different sensors onboard unmanned arial vehicles (UAV) has added new dimensions and
possibilities to crop discrimination and crop condition assessment. This paper presents the results
and observations made from pilot exercises on crop condition assessment and varietal
discrimination using Parraot Sequoia multispectral sensor onboard a hexacopter, an assembled
multirotor UAV. The Hexacopter was assembled with specification of 2 km coverage, 21
minutes endurance with flying height upto 2 km. The exercise was carried out in two selected
districts in Meghalaya state viz. Ri Bhoi and East Jaintia Hills covering areas with selected field
crops and horticultural crops. Parraot Sequoia sensor having four bands with Green 550 nm, Red
690 nm, Red edge 735 nm, and NIR 790 nm has been found to effective in crop condition
assessment in terms of crop growth stage, crop spacing, crop height and crop vigour. Normalized
Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI) and Normalised
Difference Red Edge Index (NDRE) were used to making crop condition assessment. Digital
surface models were generated to estimate the crop heights that enabled varietal discrimination
of the selected crops. Accuracy assessment was made using standard procedure which has found
to be well within the acceptable error limit.

Keywords: Unmanned Arial Vehicles (UAV), Crop discrimination, Normalised Difference Red
Edge Index (NDRE)
Availability of reliable and timely agricultural statistics is of paramount importance to the
planners, administrators, policy makers and research workers. Government depends on these data in
taking policy decisions regarding production, pricing, processing, procurement, storage, transport,
marketing, export/import, public distribution and many other related issues including investment
planning. The increasing use of remote sensing technology in the field of agriculture has opened new
vistas of improving the agricultural system all over the world. With the increase in spatial and temporal
resolution, remote sensing inputs have become critical for precision agriculture. Over the years there
have been a shifted in agriculture related RS application, towards precision, or site specific, crop
management, and the resulting interest in within-field variability (Pinter et al .,2003). Airborne RS has
been in focus over past few year due to the proliferation of multispectral digital airborne sensors (Buhler
et al., 20017), (Petrie and Walker et al, 2007). With conventional airborne data and satellite imagery it is
difficult and also costly to obtain very high resolution images required for agriculture related assessment
and studies. Unmanned Arial Vehicles (UAV) provide a cost effective solution to this problem by
enabling users to attain high resolution imagery data over an area of interest. Among many applications,
determination of the biomass, crop growth and food quality (Herwitz et al .,2004), generation of detailed
map of vegetation assemblages at the species level (Strecha et al., 2012). Crop damage assessment
(Handique et al., 2016)

In hilly terrain there is challenges in terms of small and fragmented land holding, terrace
cultivation, cloud cover, hill shade etc. (Sahoo et al. 2005). In such agricultural situations, UAVs have
emerged as alternative and complementary solutions for remote sensing based crop area delineation,
acreage estimation and crop condition assessment. Different sensors developed with optical, microwave
and thermal region of electromagnetic spectrum have brought out new possibilities of studying within
field variations. This paper presents the results and observations made from pilot exercises on crop
condition assessment and varietal discrimination using Parraot Sequoia multispectral sensor onboard a
hexacopter, an assembled multirotor UAV.


Study area:

The study was carried out in the in the district of West Jaintia Hill district of Meghalaya. It constitutes the
eastern most part of Meghalaya with a residuary geographical area of 1693 km2. The area lies between
east longitude 91.59 deg. and 92.45 deg. and between north latitude 25.3 deg. and 25.45 deg.
Horticultural crops play an important role in the agricultural production system but there is no objective
methodology for collection of crops under horticultural crops. The crop acreage estimates area brought
out using an adhoc approach of eye estimation. The system of cultivation such as multi-storey cropping
pattern, mixed cropping, intercropping, shifting cultivation etc. are the challenges for crop discrimination
and acreage estimation. Among horticultural crops, orange, pineapple, ginger, turmeric etc are
important. The Lakadang variety of Turmeric is famous for its aroma and medicinal values. We have
chosen the agricultural area under Laskein C&RD Block for conducting the UAV survey with an
aim to discrimation of the of different horticultural crops based on their spectral characteristics.

Sensor platform and sensors:

We have employed a light weight hexacopter DJI Matrix 600 for the survey (Figure 1). The M600 is a
six-rotor system with a payload of 6.0 kilograms, making it ideal for the full range of DJIs Zenmuse
gimbals. The M600s propulsion system is dustproof to simplify maintenance and increase durability. It
has actively cooled motors for more-reliable flight, and its landing gear is retractable for full 360-degree,
unobstructed imaging. The M600 features an extended flight time and a 5 km long range, ultra-low
latency HD image transmission for accurate image composition and capture. The M600 uses sine-wave
driven, intelligent to ensure it performs accurately, safely and efficiently.

Fig.1 DJI Matrix 600

Table 1. Technical specification of aircraft and the camera of the UAV

Model DJI Matrice 600
Weight (Battery Included) 9.1 kg
Dimensions 640 mm x 582 mm x 623 mm (Frame arms and GPS mount
Hovering Accuracy (GPS mode) Vertical: 0.5 m Horizontal: 2.5 m

Hovering Accuracy (P-Mode, with Vertical: 0.5 m,

GPS) Horizontal: 1.5 m
Max Angular Velocity Pitch: 300/s,
Max Speed of Ascent Yaw: 150/s
Max Speed of Descent 5 m/s
Max Speed 3 m/s
18 m/s (No wind)
Max Flight Time Approximately 45 minutes
Max range 5000 m radius (with line of sight)

A RGB camera was used to

RGB Camera
Name X3
Model FC350

Effective Pixels 12.4M

FOV 94
(Field of View)
Photo/Video format JPEG, DNG/MP4 MOV
Single shoot
Still Photography Modes Burst shooting: 3/5/7 frames
Video Recording Modes UHD (4K), FHD, HD
Micro SD
Supported SD Card Types
Max capacity: 64 GB. Class 10 or UHS-1 rating required.

About Parrot Sequoia

The Parrot Sequoia sensor has a built-in GPS module. While the GPS modules integrated into
UAV make it possible to keep an eye on their position during a flight, the Sequoia GPS module
allows the position of each captured image to be identified. The GPS module makes it possible to
significantly increase the precision of the data collected by the sensor without using data
collected by the transport platform: plane, drone, tractor, etc. The integration of a GPS module
into the sensor fulfills the objective of rendering Sequoia fully autonomous, thus dispensing with
image monitoring by the autopilot of the drone. As a result, it can be used in any drone.

The Sequoia sensor comprises of two sensors i) the multispectral sensor and ii) the sunshine
sensor. (Figure 2) The multispectral sensor containing five bands ie Green, Red, Red Edge, Near
Infrared(NIR) and one RGB Sensor mounted underneath the drone facing towards the Nadir.
The sensor has length 59mm, width 41 mm and height of 28 mm.

The sunshine sensor is mounted above the drone facing towards the zenith or the sky. The
sunshine sensor assists in adjusting the light variability, which occurs during the same
acquisition or two different acquisitions taken at two different times of the day of the earth
features. This sunshine sensor is very important in the clear as well as overcast conditions of
north east India thus improving the results. The sunshine sensor has length of 47 mm, width of
39.6 mm and height of 18.5 mm.

Table 2: Details of bands in the multi-spectral sensor.

Band Name Central Wavelength Band width

(in nm) (in nm)
Green 550 40

Red 690 40

Red edge 735 10

NIR 790 40

Figure 2 Multispectral and Sunshine Sensor

Data collection and analysis

The survey was conducted in the Laskein village considering the presence of multiple crop and
mixedcropping in nature. Necessary permissions were obtained from the local administration for
the UAV survey. The height of the UAV was maintained at 120 m. At this height ground
resolution obtained was about 5 cm. Multiple images were obtained at the speed of one image
per 5 seconds (Figure 2a). The second flight was undertaken in Mikirbheta village under
Mikirbheta block covering an area of 24 Ha. The UAV flight height was maintained 210 meters.
As the infestations were more sporadic with smaller in size, the lower flying height could give
better discrimination of infested fields (Figure 2b)

The images and the videos were transferred to the computer and processed with Pix4D software.
Mosacing of the images done to have seamless boundaries of the scenes. Four vegetation indices
were used. Viz., NDVI, NDRE, GNDVI and GRVI to staudy the relative advantages for
dincrimination of different crops in the study areas along with other associated features. Details
of indices is given in the Table 3.
Index Formula Spectral Bands or Sensor References

Normalized NDVI = Red : 690 UAV Based Tucker et al.

Difference (NIR- Red)/ NIR : 790 Parrot Sequoia (1979)
Vegetation Index (NIR+Red) Multispectral Sensor
Normalized NDRE = Red Edge : 735 UAV Based Schuster et al.
Difference Red (NIR- Red Edge)/ NIR : 790 Parrot Sequoia (2012)
Edge Index (NIR + Red Edge) Multispectral Sensor
Green Normalized GNDVI = Green : 550 UAV Based Chang et
Difference (NIR- Green)/ NIR : 790 Parrot Sequoia al. (2003)
Vegetation Index (NIR + Green) Multispectral Sensor

Green Ratio GRVI = Green : 550 UAV Based Sripada et al.

Vegetation Index (NIR)/(Green) NIR : 790 Parrot Sequoia (2006)
Multispectral Sensor


February 2017 June 2017





NDRE 0.852703 1
GNDVI 0.955721 0.839229 1
GRVI 0.91677 0.854933 0.966878 1
Inventory characterization

The crop characteristics will be used to estimate the volume and density of citrus canopy,
which can be related to yield information. Yield estimation is a critical process in citrus orchard
management. Moreover, the chemical application and irrigation can be scheduled based on the
crop requirements, which will reduce significant production costs as well as reduce pollution.
Figure 2 summarizes the diameter estimation procedure using image processing and relationship
between the estimated and actual measurements.

Plant stress detection

We evaluated the capabilities for remotely sensing HLB-infected and water-stressed trees using
hyperspectral and thermal imaging. Figure 3 represents the thermal images of individual trees
under different conditions and the average pixel values of the healthy and stressed trees. We
found that the average pixel values were higher in stressed trees than those of healthy ones
(thermal camera). Similar results were found using multispectral camera.

Figure 3. Thermal images and average pixel values of HLB-infected and water stressed-trees and
their comparison with the healthy tree reflectance.

Normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), red-edge normalized difference vegetation

index (RE-NDVI), modified simple ratio index (mSR) and simple ratio index (SRI) showed that
there was a significant difference between the healthy and HLB-infected canopy (Figure 4).
Thus, the aerial high resolution images show good potential in precision agricultural application
for specialty crops.

Figure 4. Vegetation indices computed from healthy and HLB-infected tree canopies.

A low-cost aerial sensing system can benefit growers to accomplish various

critical agricultural operations. Ease of operation and ability to obtain very high resolution aerial
images over time by growers can potentially be a very attractive tool for precision agriculture.
Also high resolution aerial imaging can provide opportunity to explore new applications that are
not available today with current aerial imaging systems. In this work, we present few potential
applications of a reliable, robust multi-rotor remote sensing system that is capable of acquiring
high resolution aerial images (1 inch or better). Results from our preliminary work indicate that
such remote sensing technology can aid in improving the management efficiency in citrus
orchards. Thus, we can further improve the adoptability of technology in agricultural practices.

Unmanned Arial Vehicles (UAV) are the most recent addition to remote sensing surveys
for different thematic applications. Their application in the field of agriculture in our country is
in the nascent stage and has tremendous potentials in acreage estimation, yield forecasting, crop
damage assessment etc. This paper presents the results and observations made from a pilot
exercise on assessment of crop damage due Plant Brown Hopper infestation in the district of
Morigaon, Assam. The result shows the effectiveness of using UAV in damage assessment and
suggests that it will open up new dimension in providing critical inputs for various crop
insurance schemes in the country.

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