In December Outfield were invited to present at a webinar hosted by the UK government’s Connected Places Catapult. The topic of the webinar was Drone Technology and Artificial Intelligence: Utilisation for High value Crops – which is exactly what we do!

The webinar was run as part of the wider Drone Pathfinder Catalyst Programme, a programme to promote different ways that drone technology can benefit the UK economy. 

My co-presenters included fruit industry expert Sarah Calcutt, Eliot Dixon from the Agri-EPI Centre and Karthik Ramalingam from Connected Places. A common theme throughout all the presentations and the Q&A session afterward was the need to turn drone gathered data into actionable insights.

Sarah began by addressing the need for fruit farming to be more data-lead, and needing “dramatically different results”. She talked about the pressures UK fruit growers are facing – political, societal, environmental, consumer preference – and how information can help growers face those pressures.

Karthik provided detail about the Drone Pathfinder Catalyst Programme and the programme’s three pronged approach. Those prongs are: a focus on drones in different industry sectors (rail, housing, and agriculture), a focus on drone regulations, and a focus on specific drone survey techniques.

I presented an overview of the Outfield system and how we are turning data into actionable insights and valuable data for growers. Using supporting imagery taken from flights and our customer facing UI, I detailed how we are using drones and machine learning backend to generate maps of fruit, blossom and tree size. In addition, I shared my thoughts on where the future of drone technology is going and the opportunity this presents. 

Finally, Eliot presented several case studies on the use of drones in agriculture: mapping variability in salad crops, weed identification in arable cover crops, and yield prediction in diary grasslands. He also talked about the different drone sensor systems the Agri-EPI Centre deploys, and how those sensors could be used on farms of the future.

After the presentations there was a Q&A panel session with loads of great questions submitted by the audience. Just some of the topics discussed were replacing field walking with robots, measuring frost damage using drones, and the impact of fog on drone sensors. It was a great session, and a real privilege to present alongside industry experts. A big thank you to the Connected Places Catapult for hosting, and to Agri-EPI Centre for organising the event. Stay tuned for more webinar events in 2022!

To watch a recording of the webinar, click  here, my section on the Outfield system starts at 18:36.

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