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Mapping sensors and UAVs at field day

Posted on July 24, 2014 by 40 Mile Commentator

By Carlie Connolly

Ken Coles and Lewis Baarda gave a talk at the annual Cypress County Field Day, on the two sensors they use when mapping. A Veris and Geonics sensor are used and both are electrophonic activity sensors, which is a measure of how electricity flows through the soil. Based on that, they can then correlate different soil features like textures, sand, silt and clay. The Veris machine has a built in organic matter sensor which is an indicator of the health of the soil.

They are currently trying to create a 3D image of the subsoil. They are mapping the soil with these sensors but they are also following up with physical soil samples on a five-acre grid. They then compare the lab type results to the numbers being generated by the sensors to try and determine if their is a correlation and how well it is correlated.

“We are watching the data as we are collecting it,” said Coles.

In this study they are trying to compare the physical soil samples to the map and they are also overlaying field scale research studies to look at nitrogen response and how the different areas within the field respond differently. “So it’s about really understanding your soils and trying to manage appropriately for that,” Coles added.

Chris Neeser and Jan Zalud discussed their topic of scouting for weeds and diseases using UAV’s which are unmanned aerial vehicles. There are two UAV’s they use. The fixed wing UAV is used for larger area mapping for agriculture. It covers a quarter section of a field, flying at around 600ft above ground level, taking 20 minutes for the plane to map the quarter section flying a grid pattern across it. The multi-roader is the other type used, which only takes pictures straight down with a normal camera. This aircraft is a hexacopter with six roaders used for real estate, which usually shoots high end homes along with farms, acreages and raw land. The founder of JZAerial, Zalud can trigger the multi-roader remotely. It’s a different mast set up where he has a live video feed from the camera so he can see his monitor and what the camera sees, allowing him to pan and tilt the camera to get the perfect shot he’s looking for. The hexacopter takes off from the ground and the fixed wing is hand launched. Both are operated with remote control.

Zalud started his company three years ago originally focusing on the agriculture sector. He’s trying to extend his season so he got into the agriculture sector as he saw it as a great opportunity. “On the real estate side, that gives me an additional two months easily of business especially in the fall once the colours start turning, there’s a lot of interest for great pictures,” he said. Currently he is attempting to extend his season.

He flies the planes across most of Alberta. The multi-rotor takes seven minutes to fly and at 50 to 100ft whereas the fixed wing takes longer. Covering a quarter section of land, it would be rough for the aircraft to do more as it doesn’t have enough battery to last that duration.

With only a few years under his belt, the company is doing well and he hopes to continue it on down the road.

“I want to continue to grow it, to become well-known in the agriculture sector. I love working with farmers and agronomists so I definitely want to stay and grow the business. I am also working hard to create awareness in business on real estate. I try not to take on much more than that, because I want to be strong in these two sectors.”

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