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Pilot drone 'can seek stressed crops and missing livestock'.

A DRONE that acquires aerial imagery to identify stressed crops is being piloted in the UK over the summer by scientists at Fera.

Fera, formerly the Food and Environment Research Agency, said many unmanned aerial vehicle (UAVs) have the ability to acquire imagery during a single flight.

But this only provides an aerial view of the crops, while some types of plant stress may be visually discernible only when it is fairly well advanced, when it may be too late for farmers and growers to act.

Paul Brown, remote sensing scientist at Fera, said: "The UAV, a new investment by Fera, will initially be used to study crop stress in Yorkshire and beyond.

"So, over the summer, we'll be working with farmers and growers to help develop methods of analysing crop stress and plant identification.

"We're keen to hear from farmers with other ideas about how the UAV might make things easier.

"For example, do you need it to map the advance of black grass or to point out areas of water stress? "How will highly accurate mapping benefit the farm? "Working with farmers will enable us to develop a service that really reflects farmers' needs."

Although imagery will be a key part of the UAV's methods of establishing problems in crops, he believes it will also be able, in the future, to carry other scientific equipment, such as the spore and pathogen traps currently being developed by Fera.

He says it also has the potential to be used to find missing livestock or to assist water companies in spotting leaks quickly and easily, and identifying issues affecting gas and elect ricity supplies.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jun 30, 2015
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