Aerial Imagery Market Evolving, Embracing Efficiencies
Like the flying objects that convey its precious sensing payloads, the aerial imagery industry in ag is as fast moving, at times, as it is downright bewildering, writes Matthew Grassi on PrecisionAg.com.
Initially regarded by most as three separate and mutually exclusive acquisition methods — satellites, fixed-wing aircraft flights, and drones — experts are now in near-unanimous agreement that the three separate classes of imagery should and eventually will play a complementary role alongside each other. Think starting off with a satellite image, seeing something that needs further exploration, then ordering up a fixed-wing or drone fly-over for a higher-resolution or multi-spectral shot of the problem. Perhaps you can manage and problem solve without even stepping foot into that field.
If there’s not value in that for you, then I don’t know where you are going to find it. But any ways …
What else is new in imagery? Higher spectral resolutions than ever before (Israeli firm Taranis made its U.S. market debut via resolutions 1,400 times greater than former startup Mavrx’ UHR imagery), increased acquisition frequency (Planet Labs and Airbus are seemingly leading the way here), and exciting new analytics and real-time processing engines to derive insights from the data in mere seconds post-flight. Maybe ag service providers haven’t re-invented the wheel just yet as far as deriving revenue from pixels, but as technology and capabilities continue to advance, imagery seems to have a pretty darn high ceiling as far as its potential in farming.
For this feature, we tapped many of our industry contacts to give us a snapshot of what they are seeing in aerial imagery right now. From fixed-wing (GeoG2) to drone (AeroVironment & senseFly) to longtime satellite proponents SatShot, we wanted to capture as well-rounded a representation of the space and its various players as possible.
Satshot’s Nathan Faleide, the CEO and son of company President Lanny Faleide, argues that imagery in agriculture is going through a bit of a transformative phase currently, with seemingly all corners of the industry angling for a piece of the pie. If you follow our sister site, PrecisionAg.com, you know the younger Faleide has been quite prolific as a contributing writer on the site, dispensing hot takes like the satellites SatShot tasks spit out data.
“There seems to still be a lot of confusion surrounding how imagery can help and how to actually use it,” Faleide states. “There is also still this unfortunate competition between the various providers of imagery like with aerial (fixed wing), UAVs, or satellites. This is a major reason for confusion in the ag space, especially with retailers and trusted advisors. What everyone needs to understand is that they all can work together, and all have their various pluses and minuses, depending on the job.”