Plantation Aerial Services

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, can be used for beneficial conservation activities, including monitoring and mapping by company and communities.

Drones are remote controlled using radio waves though they can also fly a charted a pre-programmed course. The technical accuracy of drone-compiled data can serve as an ideal complement to community mapping work, and be adjusted to suit specific mapping objectives.

Drones can carry a camera on an aerial vehicle to take pictures or videos. The images are then sent using a radio transmitter to the receiver or ground station. The operator will receive images similar to those viewed from an airplane cockpit.

So far drone usage has been limited to military activities, aerial photography, aerial filming, monitoring physical infrastructures, and use by plantations. Currently, drones are deployed by plantations and estates to gather Near Infrared (NIR) images and support development of the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI).

“Drones can be utilized to support participatory mapping but is not meant to replace participatory mapping,” explained Irendra Radjawali, researcher and Community Drone specialist during the “Drones for Mapping” discussion held by Samdhana Institute in Bogor, 10 June 2014.

According to a researcher from Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology-Bremen in Germany, drones can help monitor ecosystem transformations occurring every second, hour, and day. Indeed, drones can be a positive example of the utilization of science and technology in the public domain for good.



Future Fast Forward for Malaysia Agriculture Industry 

Average Drone believe that Malaysia plantation market using drones is not so much deployed with the usage of high technology types of equipment until at the time of this writing. We observed that many agriculture company is still laggard behind its international peers company’s that adopt precision agriculture state of art technology perhaps due to the budget constraints in the adoption of drone usage for aerial services in its surveillance, monitoring and planning the ecosystem cycle.


The new ways of aerial services will give benefit in terms of time saving, resources efficiency and the reports result can be processed much faster compared with the traditional practices.






This is Average Drone aerial services sample of image and video footage taken with one of top Plantation company in Pahang Malaysia.

For public information, Malaysia produces up to 18 million tons of palm oil annually, with plantations covering more than 4 million hectares of land.

Among the issues that Average Drone address in our sample raw image taken at Pahang Malaysia is regard to planting and replantation, the monitoring, the surveillance, the zoning according to the certain GPS coordinates. The benefit of the samples is important for the post production report results that help the “consultant” or “planner” to process their reports in so many ways.


Other cases :

Basal stem rot (BSR) or Ganoderma fungal infection is a catastrophic disease in oil palm plantations. This disease could reduce up to 80% oil palm productivity every year. The infection disrupts the distribution of water and nutrients in the trees, resulting in the appearance of specific foliar symptoms such as yellowing and necrosis leaves, unopened spears, small canopy and skirt-like shape of a crown. The only effective way to prevent the spread of this disease is by removing the infected trees. Nowadays, Ganoderma detection in oil palm plantations is well defined by visually detecting lesions and fungus fruiting bodies (mushrooms) on the infected trunks. However, visual monitoring in the field is time consuming and expensive at early stages. The need for rapid, accurate and non-destructive method for detection of BSR is becoming crucial.

Further research has been collected by Shattri Mansor, of Department of Civil Engineering, Faculty of Engineering
Universiti Putra Malaysia.

sample image plantation

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UAVs to the rescue
Quantitative remote sensing application requires a combination of high spatial and temporal resolution satellite sensors, which are very costly and most available combinations do not fit the ideal requirement. Alternatives based on manned airborne platforms could provide high spatial resolution and short revisit time, but their use is also limited by their high operational costs. Remote sensing sensors placed on Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) as they are more popularly known as, could provide a low-cost approach to meet the critical requirements of spatial and temporal resolutions. A low-cost UAV-based Visible-Near Infrared (VIS-NIR) imaging system was developed to detect Ganoderma at latent stages of the disease, before it can be visibly detected.

study spec

Rotary six wings UAV (Hexacopter) and Crop- Cam fixed wing UAV were chosen to fly over the Universiti Putra Malaysia and Sime Darby oil palm plantations located in Banting, Selangor. The UAVs were mounted with Canon PowerShot SD 780 IS digital camera (visible sensor) and Tetracam ADC (Near Infrared sensor).

The flight altitude was selected depending on the study area to cover a camera field of view (FOV), and the desired spatial resolution. The average flight height was 100 m yielding 10-cm ground resolution imagery.

The raw images were stored on the individual Visible image showing the affected oil palm at the severity level of G2 and G3 malaysia.indd 60 5/7/2013 7:54:28 PM Geospatial World | May 2013 61 compact flash cards installed in the camera. Image triggering was activated from the ground control station when the UAV reached the desired study site. Photogrammetric techniques were required to register the frames based imagery to map coordinates. Each digital frame comes with the position, altitude and timing information allowing for the generation of large mosaics. The main limitations encountered for these platforms were the endurance (15-30 min) and the low flight speed (30-60 km/h), limiting the productivity to 70 – 250 hectares per flight.

On top of that, foliar samples from healthy (G0), slightly damaged (G1), moderately damaged (G2) and heavily damaged (G3) oil palm trees (15-year-old) were collected for field and laboratory spectral measurements using hyperspectral handheld portable ASD field spectroradiometer (FieldSpec HandHeld).

Results from the samples’ spectral reflectance showed that the severities of level G2 and G3 were easily distinguished compared to level G1. Th is is also proven by the image captured by UAV-based VIS-NIR imaging. Special vegetation indices were calculated using the three bands of the multispectral camera and generally agreed, yielding a promising RMSE. As for the detection of level G1, thermal sensor will be used in the next campaign.

Conclusions and future work
UAV system enables data collection in the small and inaccessible area, especially for crop monitoring. From the foregoing, it is proven that several sensors can be successfully flown aboard small-scale UAV platform. Application of UAV-based VIS-NIR imaging technique along with the development of robust statistical models of discrimination has been proven to provide more efficient and timely management of BSR in oil palm plantation. Future work will include developing thermal infrared imaging capability and hyperspectral remote sensing missions.

(The author would like to thank Siti Hajar and Normahani of Sime Darby Research Sdn Bhd for the in-situ measurements. Field spectroradiometer measurements were assisted by Kay of TSKay Technology Sdn Bhd. Wong (Jurupro Sdn Bhd), Zailani, Hermi and Azmi are acknowledged for the technical support in operating the UAVs for the airborne campaigns.)
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