DroneFinland made 60 imaging flights during the summer

DroneFinland's unmanned airborne vehicles (UAVs or drones) have collected much remote sensing data this summer. In total, there were more than 100 flights and 60 monitoring flights for the needs of agriculture. The most important focal points for drone research in the summer of 2016 were the improvements in precision testing and research into remote sensing methods to be used in agriculture.

DroneFinland is a research and innovation centre for UAS-based remote sensing technology founded in 2016. It is a part of the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute FGI. The purpose of DroneFinland is to research and develop new remote sensing technologies and drone sensor technology. The use of drones has increased exponentially all over the world.

A test site reveals the performance of drone sensor systems

– No improvements are possible without testing. FGI has maintained test sites for remote sensing and photogrammetry for several decades in Finland, says Research Manager Eija Honkavaara.

In summer 2016 DroneFinland and Natural Resources Institute Finland built a test site for agricultural remote sensing in the test site area at Hovi in Vihti. The site has been open to testers the entire summer.

On the test site it has been possible to measure the geometric and radiometric precision of the system as well as the performance of the entire remote sensing system in the measurement of the properties of vegetation. Measured properties include biomass and nitrogen content.

DroneFinland participates in OPAL-Life project

The aim of the Natural Resource Institute Finland's OPAL-Life project is to slow down climate change through the optimal use of agricultural land. The project investigates how the crop yield capacity of fields can be improved responsibly and ecologically. The project is coordinated by Natural Resource Institute Finland and the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute at the National Land Survey is one of the participating partners. In the project, DroneFinland is responsible for the precise measurement of fields using hyperspectral imaging drones.

– In the OPAL-Life project, scientific researchers and farmers look at the measurements together, later farmers can do it on their own. This is already going so smoothly that farmers may soon have their own drones, says Research Scientist Roope Näsi. The imaging flights are a part of his doctoral thesis research.

The OPAL-Life project organised drone flights from May to July. The imaging flights provided new information about the condition of vegetation in agricultural areas and the need for subsurface drains.

Drone pioneers

At the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute, remote sensing by drones has been researched in many projects since 2008. Currently there are six projects with drones as the focus, and drones are increasingly used as testbeds in most remote sensing research projects.

DroneFinland is engaged in top scientific research internationally, where the aim is scientific, industrial and social effectivity. Cooperation with companies in the field is continuously strengthened. Cooperation includes product development, joint financing applications and the commercialisation of innovations. For example, Rikola Ltd., a Finnish manufacturer of hyperspectral imaging cameras, has taken into use techniques and methods developed at the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute. 

– The equipment used for agricultural remote sensing is being put away for the winter, but before the winter comes we, together with Natural Resource Institute Finland are going to demonstrate the use of drones and satellite images in the evaluation of winter grain fertilisation needs, says Honkavaara.

International demand for DroneFinland's expertise

There is a lot of international demand for DroneFinland's expertise. The Finnish Geospatial Research Institute's drones and hyperspectral imaging cameras are going to be sent to Namibia to measure an international test site for satellite remote sensing.

In late September, Finnish Geospatial Research Institute researchers Eija Honkavaara and Teemu Hakala are going to Brazil to teach at an international graduate school. 

More information

Research Manager Eija Honkavaara, +358 29 531 4716, firstname.lastname@nls.fi