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  • Eduardo de Lima Reis & Belinda Billing

Monitoring tea tree sprinklers with drones

The use of drones in agriculture is becoming more common and it's not suprising why. They are a powerful tool to precisely monitor crop development, helping growers to target management actions to increase yield and produce better crops.

Drones are useful across all types of agriculture and today we present a case study in the tea tree oil industry. Farmacist is currently working on the Agrifutures Tea Tree Industry Extension Project in both Northern NSW and the Tablelands in Far North QLD. One of our objectives is to help growers in this original Australian industry to find ways to reduce production costs and increase yield and efficiency. We have been exploring how drones can help achieve this.

Irrigation Case: In the tea tree industry in Far North QLD, irrigation is essential for the success of the crop. Most farms are irrigated by sprinklers spaced 15 to 18 meters apart. Each row could have 50 or more sprinklers in a 450 metres long stretch. Currently, growers walk or drive each row while irrigating searching for blocked jets or other issues impacting efficient wetting. Sometimes all sprinklers may be functioning, or the only jets that are blocked are on the last third of the row. In summary, a very long walk for often a very quick fix.

Following the suggestion of one of the tea tree growers, we flew and recorded a block during irrigation. We operated the drone at a safe height to avoid contact with the water and checked each sprinkler.

A flight at 20 metres and 3m/s (10km/h) produced a perfect view of each sprinkler and its status (working fine or faulty).

This is an extract from the full article that was published in the Winter 2023 issue of Farmacist News. To read the full article, download the printable version using the link below:

Monitoring tea tree sprinklers with drones May 2023
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