Several Belgian players are involved in the development of a hyper spectral camera that allows drones to capture images with extremely high resolution. The camera is already used on satellites, but with precision agriculture, a whole new field of application is revealed. Currently, the camera is deployed in Denmark for research on biodiversity, and in Australia and in Italy to provide commercial data to farmers. That is what the European Space Agency (ESA) reports.

Precision agriculture derives from the principle that animals and plants receive very specific treatments. In this way, input is used more efficiently and better results can be achieved. In order to enable this specific treatment, a lot of sensors and camera data will be delivered in the future, which can then be interpreted by software and/or the farmer himself.

The hyperspectral camera for drones can be added to the ever-expanding range of high-tech devices. The camera is currently being used by the European Space Agency (ESA) that its satellites are equipped, and also has a Belgian side: the camera combines the potential of a new hyperspectral chip of IMEC in Leuven with the image processing capacity of knowledge institute VITO Remote Sensing, supported by the experiences gained from ESA Earth observation satellites.

Hyperspectral imaging collects and processes information in a large part of the different wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum. By studying the “fingerprints” of certain objects in the electromagnetic spectrum one can study their properties. Currently, three customers are using a first version of the ButterflEYE LS camera, ESA reports: biodiversity research is being conducted in Denmark, in Australia uses it for agricultural research, and Italy also uses data generated by the camera to be used by farmers.

The camera weighs just 400 grams, but is extremely powerful. Due to his low weight, he fits excellently on small unmanned airplanes and can perform detailed measurements, not just for precision agriculture, but also for forestry, biomass monitoring, and so on. Specifically for agriculture, it is very interesting that the camera detects visible and near-infrared wavelengths. “A camera that is sensitive to subtle color shades allows problems to be identified that can not be seen by the naked eye or a normal camera until it’s too late to do anything,” according to VITO.



Image: ESA