The Civic Drone Centre have been demonstrating the capabilities of drones to colleagues in the School of Forensic & Applied Sciences. Dr Kevin Butt, Reader in Ecology (and earthworm expert), is embarking on an ambitious new project researching ridge and furrow farming, known as ‘lazy beds’ and ‘feannagan’ in Gaelic. We will be using cutting edge farming technology to help shed light on some of the oldest.
The project will involve re-cultivation of ridge and furrow agro-ecosystems on the Isle of Rum, Inner Hebrides, Scotland. These soils were last tilled nearly 200 years ago prior to the “Clearances”. The work will involve research into the sustainability of these soils using traditional methods of fertilisation with kelp collected from the nearby shore. Soil biology will be one major focus along with soil physico-chemistry, as the land is once more made productive and crops are grown.
Drones have several applications within agriculture. They can provide a bird’s eye view, map areas in both 2D and 3D and when equipped with different cameras provide data about crops and the land. Cameras which capture light the visual spectrum (red, blue and green – RBG) can be used for counting plants and visual inspection. Cameras which also capture near-infrared (NIR) light can be used to assess plant health and soil properties, moisture amounts and more.
The Civic Drone Centre spent a few days on the Scotish island flying several drones (both fixed wing and multirotor) collecting images (both RGB and NIR) of the lazy bed site before the fence to keep the wild deer out goes up and the project starts. These images and maps will provide baseline data which can be looked back on when the lazy beds are reinstated. The centre will be back to the island in the future to survey the site throughout the project to document the progress from above.