Case studies

Mapping 8,000 ha in 3 days with multiple drones for arable land surveying and estimates


Share | 12/28/2022

NGS Lab and Agro Solutions mapped 8,000 ha / 19,768 ac with multiple drones for a client looking to identify arable land and calculate its profit potential. Challenged by the scale, the team’s eBee X and eBee Ag captured in 3 days the same data that would have taken 45 days using traditional methods. 

Project Details

Type of Mission – AgricultureOutputs – Orthomosaic and DSM
Area – 8,000 ha / 19,768 ac Total Images – 10,120
Drones – eBee X and eBee AgProcessing time – 2 weeks
Sensors – S.O.D.A. 3D and Duet MProcessing software – PIX4Dmapper
GSD – 4 – 5 cm / 1.57 – 1.9 inLocation – Georgia, Europe
RTK/PPK – PPKData provided by – Agro Solutions and NGS Lab

The geospatial and agro consulting companies NGS Lab and Agro Solutions, collaborated on a mapping project for a private client who needed clear business intelligence for an 8,000 ha / 19,768 ac investment property in Georgia. 

The client wanted to evaluate the land to determine what percentage of it was arable, what crops -almonds, corn or wheat- would be best suited for cultivation, and what options existed for irrigation planning and design.

The project’s scale made the team choose two fixed-wing drones that would be flown simultaneously. By deploying a multi-drone mission, the data was collected in 3 days with three operators in the field. 

“We calculated that using a classical approach, it would take us 45 days, just over a month to collect enough information and sufficient data to move onto the second and third parts of the project, the agronomic selection of crops and estimates for the irrigation design”

Irakli Chikava, Commercial Director, Agro Solutions Group.


Challenges of Mapping Large Sites for Agribusiness Valuation

Similar to other large agricultural sites, the mission in Georgia also presented its share of challenges.

The first was the scale of collecting and processing 8,000 ha / 19,768 ac. Agro Solutions is no stranger to large mapping projects, however, it was their first time using drones. Thanks to NGS Lab, the company was introduced to the efficiency of fixed-wing UAS, and added an eBee X with a S.O.D.A. 3D camera and an eBee Ag with Duet M sensor. 

The field operators consisted of three people vs. the eight they typically would send, and they collected 10,120 images using 65% overlap with an accuracy of 4 – 5 cm  /1.57 – 1.9 in GSD.

Following, the team processed the data in PIX4Dmapper, which took 2 weeks to complete. “A lesson we learned with such a large dataset is that PIX4Dmapper needs a huge amount of computing power, which took more time; when we rendered it on PIX4Dmatic it took 3 days to process,” says Sandro Khutsishvili, Product Owner, NGS Lab.

The orthomosaics and DSM maps generated were critical to the property valuation and irrigation design.

In total, the project – mapping and processing – took 2 weeks thanks to using two drones simultaneously, compared to the 45 days that would have taken the team using traditional surveying methods. 

Part of the 8,000 ha / 19,768 ac piece of land mapped with eBee X and S.O.D.A. 3D and eBee Ag with Duet M.
The eBee series S.O.D.A. 3D drone camera was selected for this mission due to its precise oblique and nadir imagery that delivers sharp, detailed orthomosaics.

Next was unpredictable weather. Conditions in the wide-open field were hot during the mission and the area did not have many trees for shade.

“The sun was scorching hot, and the multi-drone mission was really helpful because the field time would have been much longer otherwise,” adds Khutsishvili.

In addition, weather patternsin general, were constantly changing on-site, but the team could easily shift their flight plans on the fly.

Lastly was multi-drone training. With Agro Solutions adding drones to their toolbox for the first time, its pilots needed to learn the new solution capabilities quickly. NGS Lab took the lead on flying both drones simultaneously while at the same time training Agro Solutions’ employees. The eBee X and eBee Ag are very easy to use. Hence, since this project, the company employs only eBee drones in all their missions. 

Another land part of the 8,000 ha / 19,768 ac mapped with eBee X and S.O.D.A. 3D and eBee Ag with Duet M.
Multi-drone approach allowed the team to map the entire 8,000 ha / 19,768 ac in three days, reducing the mission time by 55% and the workforce by 40%.

Mission Time Reduced by 55% Thanks to Multi-drone Approach

When Agro solutions compared their ROI using the multi-drone mission to their traditional surveying methods they found several key savings.

“We reduced the workforce by at least 40%,” says Chikava. “Conventional methods would have required surveyors with GPS sticks to go out with agronomists and measure sites of interest across the entire 8,000 ha / 19,768 ha.”

Mission time was reduced by at least 55%. The team considered 30 – 45 days as the potential amount of time they would spend on the ground using traditional methods. Moreover, if the weather didn’t cooperate, the process could take months.

Less time spent in the field meant that Agro Solutions could ensure they would be able to deliver recommendations to their client ahead of schedule. Today, Agro Solutions uses eBee fixed-wing drones in all their missions, most of which are multi-drone.

“It definitely makes a lot of sense for consultant companies or engineering companies to use these drones to economize the time,” comments Chikava. “Any ag consultants should go and get this solution. At the end of the day, it’s very precise and delivers measurements and figures in the software that works in real life.” 

For more information on the project, check the fly-through.

Do you want to watch the webinar with this customer story and three more? Click here.

Newsletter sign up

Sign up to receive updates directly to your inbox.