Frontiers in Agricultural and Energy Data Collection and Application


There is an exciting emergence of new technologies and tools for data collection and decision making in agriculture, such as the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UASs - drones) for precision monitoring. And not just in yield or performance monitoring, but also in collecting data for climate resilience, adaptation and mitigation in agricultural environments. These new frontiers of data collection also open up questions about data stewardship, and often times bring people into the “big data” fold that have little prior experience.

Specific Topic Focus:

Data Collection Technologies - Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UASs - drones)
Applications / Techniques / Tools - Monitoring Agricultural Activity, Landuse Change and Climate Indicators


Session Schedule:

Introduction: The Landscape of Emerging Frontiers in Agricultural Data Collection (Lindsay Barbieri will provide Introduction)

Brief Overview of "New Frontiers" in Agriculture Unmanned Aircraft Systems in Agriculture 

  • Monitoring Deforestation, Agriculture and Landuse - Max Messinger

  • USDA Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UASs) - Ray Hunt, USDA

  • Agricultural Activity and Greenhouse Gas Emissions - Lindsay Barbieri

Discussion: “Big Data” Users and Creators in these New Frontiers and exploring the connections with ESIP and Data Science more broadly. Data Examples: Irregular nature of drone data: time, space, mode of collection, formats, metadata model, etc.


USDA Use of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS)

Raymond Hunt


Over the last 60 years, record agricultural yields have been reached year after year

However, due to human development, we still need to grow more food on less land

Agricultural production increases often lead to poor environmental quality.


How to increase these efficiencies?

  • Precision farming!
  • Using GPS and GIS
  • Apply variable amounts of fertilizer and pesticides


How do you determine plant requirements???

  • Yield monitors, which account for 50-75% of the variance in fertilizer requirements


It’s important to note that other (non drone) tech is available: Sensors, robot tractors, etc

Aerial photographs are already used

  • UAS needs to provide better information



  • Field studies at OSU
  • Japanese fertilizer application
  • Potato damage monitoring from potato beetles
  • Investigate irrigation efficiency
  • Fire monitoring by the forest service
  • Identify invasive species in New Mexico

Needs from ESIP:

  • big data (Huge data files (small is 100s of GB))
  • computer vision


Monitoring Agricultural Emissions

Lindsay Barbieri

Agriculture is an important factor in climate change

FUNding Friday funded a CO2 monitor.

This study: hay field monitoring

  • related to water quality
  • impact on GHG emissions

Fields managed for improved water quality are often worse in terms of GHG emissions

Drones can help:

  • Higher resolution than satellites
  • Can resolve microtopographies
  • Can target specific events much better

How can ESIP help?

  • Data sharing and collaboration
  • Potential links ot the disaster cluster


Using unmanned aircraft to provide near real-time updates of biomass, forest structure, and land use in the Western Amazon

A new look at an old problem

Max Messinger


Forest cover is important for the climate system and biodiversity

Satellite data are limited

  • Can detect deforestation
  • Struggle to tell us the cause of deforestation

Manned aircraft are super expensive

Drones are the solution (surprise)

One of the major issues with deforestation in Peru is enforcement of the laws

  • not enough information
  • UAVs can help!

When combined with a single lidar overpass, can monitor canopy height with time.

  • This can also lead to carbon density monitoring

Current work: Forest loss and disturbances

  • Get carbon baselines
  • Estimate carbon lost
  • Track disturbances

Data Challenges

  • 200 GB/day
  • 40 TB/year
  • need 10-15 TFLOPS of processing
  • Distribute in near real time
  • With bad power and low bandwidth


Notes from Bill Teng

3 sessions related to drones and drone data (sponsoring ESIP group)

1. Drones: Navigating the New Frontiers of Data Collection and Management (Drone Cluster)
2. Using recreational drones to encourage STEM Education and ESIP collaborations (Education Committee)
3. Frontiers in Agricultural and Energy Data Collection and Application session (Agriculture & Climate Cluster)
  • Place of drones and drone data in ESIP: Drone data interpretation, management, format, standards, cataloging, discovery
  • Most drone data are dark data.
  • Used for education (college, K-12), applications, research
  • USDA ARS program on UAV
    • Focus on increasing efficiency
    • Selective application of pesticides and fertilizers (UAV onboard processing of NDVI to determine soil/crop and then targeted spray)
    • UAVs for 3 D’s (dull, dark, and dangerous)
Frontiers in Agricultural and Energy Data Collection and Application; Winter Meeting 2016. ESIP Commons , October 2015