CORDIS - EU research results

Tree shape and foliage volume map guided precision orchard sprayer


The Orchard Management GIS (OMGIS) is a georefenced database of the static physical data, the tree shape maps, and the dynamic operational events in a fruit farm. The pest management module collects infestation data from scouts and traps evaluate severity and presents the decision maker with treatment alternatives. When a treatment is chosen, spraying order are issued: One on paper to the spraying person, for material filling and general operation and the other in magnetic form, to download to the sprayer guidance module, in the form of a GPS digital trace of every spraying arm. After execution, the planned spray is compared to the actual, and the results are stored. Pesticed application data are evaluated by follow up field inspections for further consideration in the next decision cycle, and serve also as permanent records for regulatory and consumer safety purposes. The OMGIS enables the farmer to apply more precise pest management according to site-specific infestation within the orchard, and on broader scale, according to the expected geographical spread of the infestation. It provides basis for food traceability from the farm to the consumer. The prototype was field tested, but not commercialised.
The PRECISPRAY project was initiated from the concept that "intelligent" precision spraying can enhance crop protection efficiency at any current breadth of biological knowledge, if agrochemicals will be targeted specifically to infestation levels and fitted to foliage volumes. The benefits of increased economical and environmental efficiency will be realized by reduced use of poisons, healthier crops, and healthier environment. This project is an attempt to apply advance technologies to horticulture practices and to agro-mechanization and revolutionize horticultural paradigms on the base of advance technology. Information Technology based orchard management becomes rapidly a mandatory requisite to fulfil food marketing chain traceability legislation, thus any advanced crop protection system will have to comply with. The achievements of the PRECISPRAY project are described by the overall spraying efficiency and in detail by the success of it's three, parallel developed main components: 1. The orchard contour map guided precision sprayer, which delivers the spray materials dynamically following the tree canopy from an optimised distance for air velocity, and the spray quantity metered to the foliage volume facing the spraying arm. - Spray deposit tests showed that spray reduction is 36% in early season and about 20% late season with fully developed foliage. - Drift potential reduction potential, measured as deposits behind the tree row, was in the 35% - 50% range. - Our biological efficiency tests showed that the sprayer was at least as effective as the traditional cross flow sprayer, with reduced spraying amounts. 2. Aerial photography derived Tree Position and Volume (TPV) orchard contour maps. These maps, delivered to the sprayer in the "StringLine" operative format, guide the sprayer arms to follow the tree contours. - Lightweight digital aerial stereoscopic photography system was developed, including image handling and storage - TPV map generation system was developed and the 'Stringline" files were delivered to the OM-GIS. - The sprayer was test run in the orchards with manually measured stringlines, as the operators decided to use manually measured contours, to ensure the safety of the sprayer arms. That leaves the aerial stringline contours untested in actual operations. Overlapping the aerial contours on the original aerial photographs showed that the fit was quit good, but the caution was still justified. 3. The Orchard Management GIS (OM-GIS) is the management database, the user interface and the knowledge based crop protection Decision Support System (DSS). It is the depository, and retrieval system of the geographical, textual and numerical data of the farm management in general, and specifically the crop protection, including infestation and spraying history. The OM-GIS is interfaced by the "Stringline' format to the TPV system and to the Sprayer Guidance system. - The OM-GIS was developed to an operational system, including all main modules, setup and installation programs. - The pest management modules were beta-tested in real life situation and were proven operable. - The TPV and sprayer interfaces were tested partly in full (TPV, and Sprayer Feedback) and partly in simulated (Spray Order) mode. The dataflow was seamless. - The inference engine of the DSS is operative. The knowledge base has to be filled with beyond the initial with more content relating to the specific situations to be used. In conclusion, the PRECISPRAY sprayer prototype demonstrated the expected increase in potential spray efficiency of a tree shape and volume following precision sprayer. Even without improvements in the aerial TPV system it may be used in a more restricted contour following mode, ensuring the safety of the cross arms, but still applying the correct spray amounts matching the tree structure. The more widespread use of the sprayer will depend beyond of economics of equipment costs, which are expected to improve with the time, on the technological directions: - Improvement of the accuracy of the aerial TPV system; - Relaxing demands on the accuracy of the sprayer guidance, by relation to overall foliage volume instead of precise contours; - Improvement in electronic distance measuring of fuzzy surfaces, which may switch the guidance system to directly measured or even real time contour following. Regulatory requirements of agrochemical load reduction in the food chain and on the environment may change the economy of spraying, and bring into sooner introduction of precision sprayers, rational pest management, and accurate and automatic documentation, provided with the PRECISPRAY system. The OM-GIS crop protection DSS system is usable independently for orchard management and crop protection with all types of sprayers.
The Prototype digital aerial photography system was initially build based on existing building blocks. The needed components were acquired adapted and integrated as a system to fulfil the desired operational functions and tasks. Due to the enormous progress in Electronics and digital photography, more suitable equipment become available and should be used to update and improve performance of the system. The Prototype Navigation Guidance & Control System was based on: Mission Computer on commercial Laptop, GPS unit, Pilot Display unit. The System enables to do the mission planning, to guide the aircraft over the appropriate ground track, and at the correct altitude. A second GPS unit was added and connected to the digital camera in order to record for each photograph the exact position. The first GPS is used as navigation aid for the pilot. The Mission Computer controls the mission, receives the image files from Camera with position data from the GPS unit. The combined data is stored on the Hard Disk of the Mission Computer. The computer was replaced by more advanced unite with better processing power and more storage space for image storing during mission. The Prototype System was initially based on the digital KODAK DCS-460 Camera; downloading the data from the camera to the mission computer took more time then was expected based on the manufacturers specifications. The Nikon D1X replaced the DCS 460 camera. The software system has been updated to operate with the new camera. The Prototype system was initially designed to be installed on Cessna 172 light Airplane used at Israel, the installation design was updated in order to enable the usage of local airplane on the tests at the Netherlands, the updated System Installation Diagram is given below. On the Prototype system the camera was installed on a rigid stand manually stabilized. As part of the updated installation, a new camera mount has been designed and produced with manual payload stabilizing abilities integrated in order to improve performances. Tests and evaluations were performed in order to assure sufficient quality of the photographs. Orchard maps were produced in order to evaluate the quality of the Photographs, as well as statistical methods to check the accuracy of location data derived from the photographs compared to ground manually measured control points. 2 Airborne Software System The Software System of the digital aerial photography system is design to perform operational functions and tasks including Mission Planning & Simulation, Flight execution, Image and Navigation Data Storage & Data Evaluation. The Software System Functions: 2.1 Mission Planning & Simulation 2.1.1 Definition of area to be photographed on a map by four corners of the rectangle by "turbo 4" program. 2.1.2 Definition of flight paths and points of photographing locations by "Path Maker". program. 2.1.3 parameters: inputs; resolution, overlap, airplane speed, proximity of airplane to planned location to photography point. 2.1.4 File testing and validation by "Flight Path" program in simulation mode using a virtual aircraft flying program. 2.2 Flight execution 2.2.1 Flight Path and on-line position display of the airplane on the mission computer and the pilot display. 2.2.2 Camera activation on planned proximity to a photographing point. 2.2.3 Digital image and the navigation parameters storage on the mission computer H/D. 2.3 Image and Navigation Data Storage 2.3.1 Image and navigation data, connected time base for each Photography mission. 2.3.2 Loading to ground computer database. 2.4 Image and Navigation Data Evaluation 2.4.1 Evaluation of image data by Mapping and Measuring tools. 2.4.2 Statistical Analysis of accuracy results.
Within the PRECISPRAY project GISha system has provide an automated digital system for three-dimensional orchard-trees mapping out of digital aerial scans. In more details: The computerized system that was set-up was capable of accepting raw digital aerial scans and process them together with supporting ground data in order to produce three-dimensional tree-mapping and guidance data. The PRECISPRAY guided sprayer used this data in order to control its spraying volume applications and positioning of its application device with respect to the orchard trees. The system included several modules, namely: A. An automatic aerial triangulation system for generating the spatial models of the digital scans obtained from the digital airborne system. B. An automatic system for producing tree elevation points from aerial stereo pairs based on novel image processing techniques. C. A spatial database for augmenting and modelling tree-position and volume mapping data (The TPV system). D. An interface system that connects the TPV system to the PRECISPRAY GIS management system that produced volume and positioning guidance data for the PRECISPRAY guided sprayer. The system was integrated and has been tested in some experimental ground tests.

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